What’s Being Done to Stop Spread of Deadly Tomato Virus

Symptoms of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV)

Just some of the symptoms of the tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV).
Photos courtesy of Luria et al., 2017

The tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) has growers and industry stakeholders in the U.S. on red alert after recent discoveries of the malady in shipments from Mexico. In response, the USDA has now issued a Federal Order to institute new testing protocols and the expansion of visual inspections of tomatoes and peppers coming into the U.S. from Mexico.

The Federal Order officially goes into effect November 22 and will include new testing protocols and inspections that address three identified pathways (seeds, transplants, and retail) for transmission of ToBRFV.

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According to the Federal Order, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will:

  • Require all tomato and pepper seed lots imported from countries where the virus exists to be officially tested and certified free of the disease.
  • Require all tomato and pepper transplants imported from countries where the virus exists to be officially tested and certified free of the disease.
  • Require all tomato and pepper fruit imported from Mexico, Israel, and the Netherlands to be inspected at the point of origin to ensure it is free of disease symptoms.
  • Require Canada to inspect all tomato and pepper fruit prior to export to the U.S. to ensure it is free of disease symptoms.

In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will increase inspections at U.S. ports of entry to ensure imported tomato and pepper fruit entering from Mexico, Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands does not show any signs of disease upon arrival.

Tomato brown rugose fruit virus can cause severe fruit loss in tomatoes and peppers. It is easily spread through 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 multiple areas around Europe, the Middle East, and North America. The virus was detected and eradicated from a California tomato greenhouse in 2018. Recently, plant inspectors in Florida intercepted the ToBRFV tobamovirus from packaged Mexican tomatoes in two separate locations.

Click here to view a copy of the Federal Order.