With trade between Mexico and the United States increasing under the North American Free Trade agreement, both countries have agreed to tighten food safety controls on products crossing the border. During the Washington visit of Mexican President Vincente Fox, the two nations signed a cooperative arrangement they believe will improve the safety of the food supplies in both nations. The arrangement, in conjunction with other cooperative measures, is designed to help reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses on both sides of the border. "This agreement marks a very important new era in the food safety efforts of both our countries," said Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). "It recognizes the strong bond between Mexico and the United States - a bond that is reflected in the enormous increase in the trade of food commodities across our borders."

Under the terms of the arrangement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administriation (FDA), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mexico's Secretar¿de Agricultura, Ganader¿ Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentaci¿n (SAGARPA) and Secretar¿de Salud (SSA) will enhance their existing food safety partnership through expanding programs, sharing information and coordinating specific activities. FDA, SSA and SAGARPA will cooperate to share information on the sources of fresh produce and to investigate the causes of any contamination of these products. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Foreign Agriculture Service and SAGARPA will take steps to ensure the safety of meat, poultry and egg products in both countries. These efforts are expected to ensure that borders remain open and that safe products continue to flow freely between the countries. The agencies will also collaborate on other specific projects to achieve common understanding on issues of mutual concern.