Mexico’s produce exports to the US are often found on the FDA’s Import Alert List once they cross the international border. The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property is currently waiting on pending patent registrations for intervention recipes that could successfully disinfect Mexico’s exports of avocados, mangos, strawberries, chilies, tomatoes and coriander.
In this year alone , Mexico’s recent exports of 71 food products have landed on the US Food and Drug Administration’s Import Alert List, most of which are produce items like cantaloupes, dried peppers and green onions.
However, Mexico’s large avocado crop sparked the research for disinfecting produce by the University of the State of Hidalgo (UAEH). Thirty percent of the world’s avocado exports are from Mexico – over 1.52 tonnes per season.
UAEH researchers have been looking into the produce pathogen problem for several years. Javier Castro Rosas and other UAEH scientists started their research through studying natural disinfectors like the hibiscus flower and its ability to reduce pathogens like salmonella, typhoid and E. coli in avocados.
The team at UAEH then looked into commercial disinfectants like colloidal silver and chlorine for produce products, which did not reduce pathogen numbers by enough to be considered. Finally, the team found success with a mixture of natural antimicrobial ingredients such as acetic acid from vinegar, citric acids from lime and other natural substances.
The UAEH researchers claim their antimicrobial mixture can eliminate all bacteria from avocados and can control bacteria on other food products that Mexico exports.
If their patent is approved, Mexico will save a lot of money on their produce exports. The FDA’s Import Alerts are costly for exporters because products on the list cannot enter the US without being sampled and tested by a qualified independent laboratory. If the lab finds any pathogens or illegal residues on the products, they will be destroyed or sent to another country. Getting off the Import Alert List requires five clean exports in a row.
These strict guidelines come from previous health outbreaks experienced in the US from produce. Mexican produce played a hand in many pathogen outbreaks in the US over the past few years. Last year, Mexico’s exports of contaminated maradol papayas affected over 250 people which resulted in two deaths and 79 hospitalizations. Imported produce from Mexico was named the likely cause of 1,065 lab-confirmed cases of cycosporiasis in the US in 2017.
Mexican exporters hope these new intervention recipes will help to grow their businesses and increase exports to the US and other countries.