APHIS amends Federal Order for U.S. Imports of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and pepper (Capsicum spp.) hosts of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV)

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June 3, 2020



Subject:       APHIS amends Federal Order for U.S. Imports of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and pepper (Capsicum spp.) hosts of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV)

To:                   State and Territory Agricultural Regulatory Officials


Effective June 5, 2020, after issuance of this Federal Order, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is amending the restrictions for the importation of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and pepper (Capsicum spp.) hosts of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). Specifically, APHIS is amending the import requirements for tomato and pepper fruit for consumption by adding restrictions for tomatoes and peppers from the Dominican Republic, France, and Spain. APHIS has detected ToBRFV in tomato fruit imported from the Dominican Republic, and received official reports of the disease in France and Spain. In addition, APHIS is removing a reference to obscured seed in the Federal Order to clarify that obscured tomato and pepper seed remain eligible for importation into the United States under the obscured seed program[1].  All other requirements in the November 15, 2019 (DA-2019-28) version of the Federal Order are unchanged. 


ToBRFV is a recently described member of the Tobamovirus genus. This virus genus also contains other economically important pathogens that infect vegetable crops, including Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), Tomato mosaic virus (ToMV), and Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV). The disease caused by ToBRFV was first reported in 2014 in tomatoes in Israel. Since then, ToBRFV has been reported in China, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany (eradicated), Greece, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Given the global nature of seed production and the international movement of seeds, the distribution may be greater than reported.


Tomato and pepper are the two main hosts. Symptoms caused by ToBRFV include bubbling and mosaic patterns on leaves of susceptible pepper, and fern leaf and mosaic patterns on tomato leaves. On fruit, symptoms include smaller fruit size with a rough surface, fruit drop, delay in ripening, and fruit discoloration including blotching, pale color and/or brown necrotic spots. Infected tomato fruits can be unmarketable or reduced in quality. Necrosis can occur on susceptible pepper fruit.


Tobamoviruses are mechanically transmitted and seedborne viruses. ToBRFV is mechanically transmissible through infected sap of both tomato and pepper. Transmission occurs through touching and manipulating infected plants. Transmission is common during transplant productions or in crop production systems in which plants are regularly handled, such as greenhouse operations.


To continue to safeguard against the introduction of ToBRFV into the United States, APHIS will continue to restrict the importation of tomato and pepper by requiring imported plants and plant products to be free of evidence of ToBRFV, as specified in the attached Federal Order.  Propagative hosts are considered high risk pathways for the introduction of ToBRFV and under the conditions of the Federal Order, imports of propagative material must be free from ToBRFV based on origination from an area free of the pest or negative results of diagnostic testing. 


APHIS will continue to place restrictions on imports of fresh tomato and pepper fruit for consumption from those countries where ToBRFV is present and that are approved to export to the United States. Although the phytosanitary risk associated with infected tomato and pepper fruit is historically considered to be low, APHIS has intercepted ToBRFV in tomato shipments requiring regulatory action. Hence, these interim measures are necessary to safeguard U.S. tomato and pepper production while APHIS continues to evaluate emerging scientific evidence on ToBRFV.


Specifically, APHIS will require fresh tomato and pepper fruit imported from the Dominican Republic, France, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Spain (countries approved to export tomatoes and/or pepper where ToBRFV is present) to be inspected to ensure it is free of disease symptoms. APHIS will require that countries that already require a phytosanitary certificate for tomato and/or pepper fruit, such as France, Israel, the Netherlands, and Spain to now include an additional declaration that the fruit was inspected and found free of ToBRFV.


For countries that currently do not require a phytosanitary certificate for tomato and/or pepper fruit, such as the Dominican Republic, Canada and Mexico, shipments must be accompanied by an industry inspection certification document issued by the grower or packer that contains language identical to the required additional declaration and includes identifying information about the inspector, grower, and packinghouse. This alternative to a phytosanitary certificate is an interim measure until the risk has been more thoroughly analyzed and a long term solution can be established.


APHIS continues to restrict importation of tomato and pepper fruit worldwide to commercial consignments.  Imports in passenger baggage are prohibited.


For additional information regarding this Federal Import Order, please contact Marc Phillips at 301-851-2114 or Marc.Phillips@usda.gov.



Osama El-Lissy

Deputy Administrator

Plant Protection and Quarantine

Attachment: Federal Order


[1] https://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/permits/downloads/SeedsInspectionProtocol.pdf