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Statement in response to the comments submitted by the US phytosanitary authorities on a previous EFSA opinion (EFSA Journal 2011;9(12):2461) regarding the export of Florida citrus fruit to the EU

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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been asked to address the comments submitted in April 2012 by the US phytosanitary authorities on the EFSA scientific opinion on the US request related to the export of Florida citrus fruit. The EFSA Panel on Plant Health acknowledges the responses provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and considers that the USDA misinterpreted the conclusions made by the Panel in its previous opinion (EFSA Panel on Plant Health (PLH), 2011). The Panel considers that the extrapolations of the data provided by Shiotani et al. (2009) and Gottwald et al. (2009) were not supported by sound evidence. The Panel considers that both the responses provided by Dr Shiotani and by Dr Gottwald and colleagues do not lead to any major change in the set of scientifically sound information related to citrus canker and Xanthomonas citri pv. citri. The Panel, after evaluating the response provided by the USDA regarding the previous EFSA scientific opinion on citrus canker, considers that the removal of mandatory mitigation measures in field and packinghouse facilities increases the risk of contamination of fruit during the growing season and thus the bacterial load and frequency of infected fruit in consignments. Permitting the trade of citrus fruit originating from infected orchards increases the probability of the presence of X. citri pv. citri on fruit in consignments from those sites. The Panel considers that citrus fruit is a pathway for introduction of X. citri pv. citri into the European Union and the related risk is being evaluated in a separate EFSA opinion  under preparation on the plant health risk of citrus canker for the EU.