The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) utilizes a comprehensive, three-part system for both establishing initial equivalence and ensuring the ongoing equivalence of countries that export regulated poultry products to the United States.

According to Julie Schwartz, FSIS public affairs specialist, a foreign country’s inspection system must ensure that establishments preparing poultry products for import into the Unites States comply with requirements equivalent to those in the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) and in FSIS regulations. Once a country’s inspection system is granted equivalence, FSIS conducts periodic verification reviews and audits of exporting establishments.

In addition, products undergo re-inspection at U.S. ports-of-entry to check for proper certification, labeling, transportation damage and general condition. Selected shipments are subject to additional re-inspection procedures, including examinations for product defects and laboratory analyses to detect harmful chemical residues or pathogen testing appropriate for the products.

FSIS performs increased import re-inspection activities for countries that are beginning to export product to the Unites States.

Once an equivalence determination is made, the United States conducts annual audits of the exporting country’s national meat inspection system to ensure that they continue to meet U.S. levels of protection, Schwartz explained.

Equivalence for processed poultry in China

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FSIS has granted equivalence to China, which means the country has a meat inspection system in place that meets the FSIS equivalence requirements to handle processed products. While China has received approval to export processed poultry products to the U.S., the raw poultry used for these products must originate in either the U.S. or Canada.

Three poultry processing establishments in China have been granted eligibility to export processed poultry products to the United States, but to date, none have exported any processed poultry products to the United States, according to Schwartz.

The establishments granted eligibility to export are: Shandong Delicate Food Company, No. 2 Meat Product Processing Plant of Weifang Legang Food Company, and Qingdao Nine-Alliance Group Company, Changguang Food Plant. A fourth establishment had earlier been granted equivalence in 2014, but was delisted earlier in 2015.

FSIS auditors traveled to China in May to conduct the annual verification audit for processed poultry, and while there, auditors visited several slaughter establishments, selected by the Chinese government for review by the United States under the pending Chinese initial equivalence application for slaughtered poultry.

Schwartz adds that FSIS does not select which facilities in China are to be audited. Instead, that decision is made by the Chinese government.

 Another Chinese processor, Cargill Animal Protein Co., is seeking eligibility to export to the U.S., but has not yet been granted that eligibility.