NL: Tomato and bell pepper seed import checks begin on 1 April

As of 1 April, inspection services in the Netherlands must sample imported tomato and bell pepper seeds. That's per instruction from the Dutch Food and Consumer Goods Safety Authority (NVWA). Exporting countries must show that these batches are free from Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV). This is a plant disease.

The country wants to prevent this disease from being introduced and spreading. The European Union's (EU) 2020/1191 emergency regulation specifies how to do this. The sampled lot can't be marketed until the test comes back negative. These tests costs will be for importers' accounts.

Mandatory testing

ToBRFV is a highly contagious plant virus. It can damage tomato crops and infect pepper plants (Capsicum sp.). This virus is, however, harmless to humans or animals.

It can occur anywhere in a plant, and infected seeds can spread it. So, exporting countries are required to demonstrate that all batches of tomato and pepper seeds are free from ToBRFV. That must be done prior to transportation.

While checking imports, quality inspectors must also take samples of specific tomato and Capsicum seed lots. These are those from third countries offered for import into the Netherlands. The shipment declaration system (CLIENT-import) randomly selects a shipment to be sampled. The inspector then chooses a batch from that shipment. The samples are laboratory-tested for the presence of ToBRFV.

Monitoring

The NVWA started monitoring tomato and bell pepper seed imports as far back as June 2020. This check became legally required on 15 August. It was recommended that at least 20% of incoming shipments be sampled. Pepper seeds that have ToBRFV resistance, according to their accompanying phytosanitary certificate, are exempt.

The EU regulation prohibits the import release for batches still being lab-tested. The entire sampled lot - a single product line in CLIENT-import - will be recorded. The turnaround time for testing will be about three weeks. That might increase as supplies do.

If the virus's presence is suspected, the sample will be tested for a second time. Only if the laboratory test is negative, i.e., if the virus isn't present, will the batch be released. If the lot is contaminated, it must be destroyed or returned.

Imports must pay for the sampling and laboratory testing.


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