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USDA Issues Compliance Guide for Imported Meat, Poultry and Egg Products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is requesting comments by 5 September on guidance intended to help U.S. importers, customs brokers, official import inspection establishments, egg products plants and other interested parties understand and comply with FSIS requirements for importing meat, poultry and egg products. FSIS encourages interested parties to follow this guidance, which represents current FSIS thinking but will be updated as necessary to reflect comments received and any additional information that becomes available.

Imported meat, poultry and egg products must originate from eligible countries and from establishments or plants that are certified to export to the United States. A country becomes eligible following an equivalence determination process completed by FSIS in co-ordination with the country’s central competent authority. After a country is determined to have an equivalent food safety regulatory system, FSIS relies on the country’s CCA to carry out inspection activities. Foreign establishments desiring to export to the United States must apply to their own CCA and that country’s chief inspection official must certify to FSIS those establishments that meet requirements equivalent to those of the United States. In addition to re-inspecting product presented for import into the United States, FSIS conducts periodic audits to ensure that the foreign country’s food safety regulatory system remains equivalent to that of the United States. These audits include an assessment of selected exporting establishments.

All imported shipments of meat, poultry and egg products must be presented to FSIS for inspection. FSIS import inspection occurs after the product has met U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service requirements at the U.S. port of entry (i.e., conditional release). CBP’s release of the shipment at the U.S. port of entry allows the shipment to transfer to the designated FSIS official import inspection establishment but does not mean that FSIS import inspection requirements have been met.

To apply for a FSIS import inspection the importer must submit either the paper FSIS Form 9540-1 (Import Inspection Application) to the FSIS inspection personnel in the designated official import inspection establishment or the electronic application data into CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment. The importer must submit the inspection application as far as possible in advance of the anticipated arrival of each consignment but no later than when entry is filed with CBP. In order to avoid delays, it is essential that sufficient advance notice occur to ensure data entry can be completed in advance of the shipment arriving at the official import inspection establishment.

The FSIS guidance summarises existing requirements and best practices for compliance. It includes information on presenting and documenting shipments, certification, labelling and marking, sampling, testing and hold pending test results, the refused entry process, best practices in supply chain co-ordination, import inspection exemptions, non-regulated products and import inspection resources.

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