STC Number - 413

Guatemala's restrictions on egg products

Maintained by: Guatemala
Raised by: Mexico
Supported by:
First date raised: October 2016 G/SPS/R/84, paras. 3.5-3.6
Dates subsequently raised: November 2018 (G/SPS/R/93, paras. 3.48-3.49)
March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94, paras. 3.96-3.99)
July 2019 (G/SPS/R/95, paras. 4.83-4.84)
Number of times subsequently raised: 3
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0407 Birds' eggs, in shell, fresh, preserved or cooked.; 0408 Birds' eggs, not in shell, and egg yolks, fresh, dried, cooked by steaming or by boiling in water, moulded, frozen or otherwise preserved, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter.
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment; Avian Influenza
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2016, Mexico expressed its concern on Guatemala's restrictions on egg products. Mexico considered the measure to be in violation of fundamental principles of technical and scientific justification based on international standards, principles enshrined in the SPS Agreement and the free trade agreement between Mexico and Central America. Mexico noted its preference to promote dialogue; however, these efforts had not been successful. Guatemala continued to impose import restrictions on Mexican egg products even though its legislation allowed imports of heat treated avian products. Mexico indicated that its egg products exports were significantly affected by the restrictions and requested that Guatemala withdraw its measure in order to resume egg products trade between the two countries.

Guatemala replied that in October, Guatemala had informed Mexico that it was currently conducting a risk assessment and would contact Mexico upon the conclusion of the analysis.

In November 2018, Mexico reiterated its concern over Guatemala's restrictions on egg products, highlighting that the measure in question violated fundamental principles of technical and scientific justification based on international standards. Mexico explained that these principles were enshrined in the SPS and TBT Agreements, as well as in the free trade agreement between Mexico and Central America. The continuous discussions held with Guatemala had not succeeded in resolving this matter, despite Mexico's self-declaration as an HPAI-free area. Mexico expressed concerns regarding undue delays in communications by Guatemala given discussions had been ongoing since 2010. Mexico further recalled that its egg products exports were significantly affected by the restrictions, and requested that Guatemala withdraw its measures, which had no scientific justification and were not based on any relevant international standard.

Guatemala replied that in October 2016, it had informed Mexico that it was reviewing the information provided. This issue had been further discussed in 2016 and 2017, and in June 2018, Guatemala had informed Mexico on the prohibition of imports of poultry products in response to an outbreak of H7N3 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in two Mexican states. Guatemala noted that its measures were in line with the OIE standards, and was awaiting additional information from Mexico. Guatemala remained committed to continue bilateral discussions on this matter.

In March 2019, Mexico reiterated its concern over Guatemala's restrictions on thermally processed egg products. Mexico recalled that it had been requesting the lifting of the measure since 2007, arguing its inconsistency with the SPS Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and Central America, as it did not provide a technical and scientific justification based on international standards nor a risk assessment. Mexico referred to the recommendations contained in article 10.4.15 of the OIE's Terrestrial Code to ensure the elimination of the avian influenza virus in imports of processed egg products, regardless of the country of origin's avian influenza status. Mexico added that Guatemala's restrictions were also in contradiction with its own legislation, which confirmed compliance with OIE guidelines and recommendations and the fundamental principles of the SPS Agreement. Mexico regretted the lack of progress, despite proving the existence of HPAI-free zones and compartments. Mexico highlighted the impact of Guatemala's total ban on its egg products.

Guatemala provided information on the technical meetings held and the written responses to Mexico's request, the latest dated 12 February 2019. Based on OIE information, Mexico had reported outbreaks of HPAI H7N3 in February 2018 and of Newcastle disease in January and February 2019, including outbreaks in Mexican States bordering Guatemala. Guatemalan national legislation did not allow trade in poultry, poultry products and by-products with countries affected by HPAI (Ministerial Agreements No. 105-2012 and No. 228-2013) or the highly virulent form of Newcastle disease (Ministerial Agreement No. 1029-99). Guatemala concluded that those viruses threatened its poultry farming, which remained free of these diseases as scientifically established by the National Poultry Health Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food.

Mexico responded to Guatemala explaining that the velogenic Newcastle disease outbreaks had been duly notified to OIE but that they did not pose a risk in the case of exports of thermally processed egg products. Mexico asked Guatemala to take into account the recommendations in articles 10.9.11 and 10.9.20 of the OIE's Terrestrial Code.

Guatemala reiterated that its sanitary measures for trade of poultry and poultry products from countries affected by HPAI and the highly virulent form of Newcastle disease were based on OIE standards. Guatemala detailed the outbreaks notified by Mexico to the OIE since 2014, as well as the affected types of poultry and the States concerned; and reporting on non-conformity cases encountered by Guatemalan authorities in July 2016. Following a lack of corrective measures, and in light of the sanitary risks, Guatemala could not resume trade. Guatemala further added that its Ministerial Agreements No. 105-2012 and No. 1029-99 were based on the OIE Terrestrial Code.

In July 2019, Mexico requested Guatemala an opportunity to demonstrate that thermally-processed egg-based products lacked risk, and to allow the import of egg-based products that had been subject to a thermal treatment that guaranteed the destruction of the AI virus, regardless of the country's AI status, as per Article 10.4.15 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Regarding Newcastle disease, Mexico had been informing detected outbreaks, and requested Guatemala to allow the importation of heat-treated products which guaranteed the destruction of the virus, as per the Terrestrial Animal Health Code Articles 10.9.11.2 and 10.9.20. Guatemala had explained that its restrictions were in compliance with its Ministerial Agreement 228/2013, however Mexico noted that the Agreement also stated that it would comply with OIE guidelines. Mexico regretted the lack of response to the communications it had sent.

Guatemala informed Members that it would provide a written response to Mexico, including its requirements for imports to its market, which were part of the ongoing review process of their poultry regulations, which would take as reference the OIE guidelines for countries with outbreaks of AI and Newcastle virus. Guatemala would continue the ongoing bilateral discussions.