The Panamanian Food Agency (APA)

On March 31, 2021, the creation of the Panamanian Food Agency (APA) was published in the Official Gazette # 29,253 by means of Law # 206 of March 30, 2021, which eliminates and replaces the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA), which existed and had been functioning since February 2006.

The Panamanian Food Agency (APA) is the new State entity whose objective is the management and verification of agro-industrial and industrial food production procedures, as well as the export and import of food.

The creation of this new government entity arose as a result of statements made by producers of the national agricultural sector, who had even described AUPSA as a government entity that served as a “highway for food imports”, for which many national producers felt that they could not compete with food imports at harvest time for their products, and felt that they were at a disadvantage, thus the current national government from its inception promised to balance and review this issue.

The Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA) was the specialized regulatory body that specifically supervised food imports and international food trade, emphasizing issues such as: the introduction of food into the national territory, food import requirements, the safety of imported food and its quality, carrying out a review of the sanitary and phytosanitary standards of the same. During their term, they were able to develop a digital platform which was an agile and valuable tool for the supervision and processing of sanitary registrations of imported food, sanitary alerts and other items, which is still being used by the new Panamanian Food Agency (APA), since they are still in transition.  

All these functions and objectives are now transferred to the Panamanian Food Agency (APA), as the State entity that will manage and verify the procedures for agro-industrial and industrial food production, including the export and import of food, its transit and transshipment.

The two main differences between what was the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA), as opposed to the Panamanian Food Agency (APA), reside in the fact that:

  1. The new entity, APA, covers the regulation of management and verification of all food production procedures, both domestic and imported, including those to be exported.

AUPSA, on the other hand, specialized only in regulating the management and verification of food import procedures.;

  1. The new entity, APA, although created as an autonomous state institution, is subject to the policies, guidance and direct orders of the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and to the oversight of the Comptroller General of the Republic.

Meanwhile, AUPSA had a coordinating role with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agricultural Development on these same issues related to human, animal and plant health. In other words, now everything related to food products will be consolidated in the same regulatory body, the APA.

  The most relevant characteristics of the Panamanian Food Agency (APA) are as follows:

  1. APA will be the governmental regulatory body with respect to raw materials, products and by-products of animal, vegetable and mineral origin for food uses, national or imported, in transit and transshipment, applicable to industrial and agro-industrial production, export and import of foodstuffs.
  2. The Ministry of Agricultural Development will maintain a more direct and belligerent role in the decisions and actions that APA may execute, with respect to its governing functions in the areas of animal health, plant health and agricultural quarantine, and the Ministry of Health in the areas of food safety for human consumption, control of zoonoses and food-borne diseases, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industries in matters related to technical standards and the administration of compliance with international trade agreements. 

   The Panamanian Food Agency (APA), once created by Law 206 of March 30, 2021, is mandated to undertake the difficult task of creating an Integrated System of Procedures with the presence of the State entities whose competencies are related to the APA and for which it must develop memorandums of understanding with these entities.

Among the most relevant procedures that must be carried out through the APA‘s Integrated Procedures System, among others, the following are the most important ones:

  1. Sanitary registrations of domestic and imported foodstuffs;
  2. Food import procedures;
  3. Phytosanitary certificates for vegetables for human and animal consumption;
  4. Sanitary Operating Permits;
  5. Issuance of Free Sale Certificates for domestic food products.    

Given the complexity of the adjustments that must be implemented for the transformation eliminating the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA) and duly creating the Panamanian Food Agency (APA), the law that creates this new entity will become effective one hundred and eighty (180) days after its enactment, that is, it must become effective on September 28, 2021. There will be a Transition Commission made up of all the government entities involved, to carry out the transition of human resources, assets, equipment and supplies to be transferred from AUPSA to APA.

We will monitor the full implementation of the APA as the Transition Committee reaches agreements and provisions for its operation.       


José Antonio Sierra

Senior Associate