American Pistachio Growers announced the end of a longstanding policy that provided unfair advantage to imported pistachios, allowing them into the U.S. with less regulatory scrutiny than that received by American growers for the same product.

The new USDA Agriculture Marketing Service import regulation mandates that aflatoxin levels for imported pistachios be limited to 15 parts per billion and that they be accompanied with an aflatoxin inspection certificate issued by an accredited laboratory.  The regulation goes into effect on Aug. 27 and is the result of years of effort in Washington on behalf of domestic growers.

For the first time, imported pistachios will have the same USDA-mandated quality requirements for aflatoxin levels that are currently imposed on domestic growers.  APG has worked closely with USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to make sure the regulation of the Administrative Committee for Pistachios (ACP) complied with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

APG Executive Director Richard Matoian praised USDA Secretary Vilsack and USTR Ambassador Kirk for approval of the tighter regulation. He stated, “APG has worked tirelessly over the years with the federal government to make sure the import aflatoxin regulation would be implemented.  With U.S. pistachios and now imported pistachios held to the same standards, consumers will see a consistently higher quality product in the marketplace and have greater assurance their food is safe.”

“Consumers rely on their grocers to provide food that’s deemed safe by USDA, not knowing that imported agricultural products are often held to a lower standard,” said Kern County grower Brian Blackwell.  “We’re proud to exceed the regulatory requirements, but we growers feel imports should at least meet minimum federal requirements. This victory is a big step towards that goal.”

APG Chairman Jim Zion expressed his appreciation for all the hard work done by his APG predecessors, including the California Pistachio Commission, which positioned U.S. pistachios to comply with strict WTO trade rules.  “This is an example of the advocacy that’s needed on behalf of our grower members and all agriculture and one key reason APG exists. The U.S. pistachio industry and consumers now have a food safety system unlike any other WTO member-country.  It brings added fairness for growers and protection for consumers.”