In recent years, public and private food safety standards in the EU have proliferated and grown stricter while food prices and demand in these markets have been stagnating. The opposite is true for many emerging and transitional countries that are experiencing an increase in purchasing power and demand. However, these countries often have lower food safety standards than in the EU. In response to current trends in international food trade, this study seeks to determine whether traders in developing–transitioning countries and in industrialized European countries (especially Germany), are experiencing changes in trade flows in the international fresh-fruit trade and also identify the role of private standards in connection with relevant situational factors driving these changes. Underlying assumptions are derived from the concepts of the contingency approach. To obtain qualitative data, a series of semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with industry experts from fourteen import countries and twenty-two export companies. Based on the results of a structured content analysis of these interviews, appropriate political, managerial and research implications are developed promoting the liberalization and harmonization of public and private maximum residue levels for fruits within the EU.