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Mainland China Could Continue to Export Siluriformes Fish to the United States under New Proposal

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is seeking input from interested parties by 19 October on a proposal to amend the Siluriformes fish inspection regulations to list mainland China as a country eligible to export Siluriformes fish and fish products to the United States. If this action is finalised, mainland China will be able to continue to export these products to the U.S. market.

FSIS is proposing this action because, following a review of mainland China’s laws, regulations and inspection system as implemented, the agency has determined that mainland China’s Siluriformes fish inspection system is equivalent to the system that the United States has established under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and its implementing regulations. Under the current proposal, only raw Siluriformes fish and fish products produced in certified mainland Chinese establishments would be eligible for export to the United States. All such products would continue to be subject to re-inspection by FSIS inspectors at U.S. points-of-entry.

FSIS published a final rule on 2 December 2015 that established a mandatory inspection system for Siluriformes fish and fish products. The rule provided an 18-month period, from 1 March 2016 to 1 September 2017, for both the U.S. domestic Siluriformes fish industry and international trading partners to transition from the regulatory requirements of the Food and Drug Administration, the agency formerly responsible for regulatory oversight of Siluriformes fish, to the regulatory requirements of FSIS. The agency required foreign countries to submit by 1 March 2016 written documentation identifying a list of establishments that had been exporting and would continue exporting Siluriformes fish to the United States. In addition, foreign countries had to submit written documentation by that date demonstrating that they had laws or other legal measures in place providing authority to regulate the growing and processing of fish for human food and assuring compliance with the FDA’s good manufacturing practices, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements, sanitation control procedures and other regulatory requirements.

Foreign suppliers that submitted complete equivalence documentation by 1 September 2017 (mainland China submitted its documentation in March 2017) were permitted to continue exporting Siluriformes fish until FSIS made a determination regarding the U.S. equivalency of their respective inspection systems. In August 2017, mainland China submitted the questionnaire used by FSIS to assess the U.S. equivalence of a foreign country’s food safety inspection system.

FSIS conducted random and targeted sampling and testing of imported Siluriformes fish during the transition period and on 2 August 2017 it began re-inspecting all shipments of subject merchandise, with random sampling for species and residue testing. During the testing, FSIS found residue violations in shipments of Siluriformes fish exported from mainland China. When imported product fails FSIS testing, the product is refused entry, the designated competent authority of the foreign government’s inspection system is notified and further shipments of product from the foreign establishment are placed under either an increased or intensified level of sampling. FSIS notified the issues it had identified to mainland China’s General Administration of Customs and, in response, GACC completed investigations to determine the cause of the violations and implemented corrective actions as necessary.

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