The USDA’s Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced last week it has issued a federal order – effective Nov. 22 – imposing restrictions on imports of tomato and pepper seed lots and transplants from all countries where the virus exists, as well as restrictions on tomato and pepper fruit imported from Mexico, Israel and the Netherlands. This strategic move is all in an effort to prevent the introduction of the tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) into the US.
The move is intended to protect US tomato and pepper production worth more than $2.3 billion annually and was lauded by industry representatives. Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas said in media reports, “Along with the regulatory agencies, the industry looks forward to learning how we all can help stop this plant disease.”
Additionally, because Canada imports tomato and pepper fruit from Mexico that may be re-exported to this country, the USDA will also require Canada to inspect tomato and pepper fruit to ensure it is free of disease symptoms prior to export to the US.
APHIS and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will increase inspections of tomato and pepper seed, plant and fruit imports entering from countries where the virus is known to occur and Canada, and will take action to keep any infected products out of the country.
Tomato brown rugose fruit virus can cause severe fruit loss in tomatoes and peppers. It is easily spread through the use of contaminated tools, hands and plant-to-plant contact. It was first reported in tomatoes in Israel in 2014. Since then, it has been reported in China, Mexico, Germany (eradicated), Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Turkey and the Netherlands. The virus was detected and eradicated from a California tomato greenhouse in 2018.