Officials from the US and Mexico signed a cooperative agreement on Tuesday in a bid to combat the spread of food-borne bacteria across the border between the countries.

The agreement was signed by the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under-secretary William T. Hawks, the Mexican Secretary of Health, Dr Julio Frenk, and Javier Trujillo, director-in-chief of Mexico’s National Service for Protection, Food Safety and Quality of Agricultural Products.

There are no available figures on how many illnesses are caused in the US, or Mexico, by food borne bacteria originated in the other country, but the agreement hopes to stem the tide by highlighting the need to share information, coordinate food safety education, create uniform processing standards and investigate all possible causes of illness.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA will conduct investigations together with Mexico’s Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion and the Ministry of Health.

Officials from the US revealed that the agreement was designed to guarantee the nation’s food safety while maintaining an open border with Mexico for the free flow of products and services.

“With the amount of trade between our countries, cooperation on food safety is vital,” said Hawks.

Thompson added: “This agreement marks a very important new era in the food safety efforts of both our countries […] It recognizes the strong bond between Mexico and the US – a bond that is reflected in the enormous increase in the trade of food commodities across our border.”