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USDA Adds China to List of Eligible Processed Poultry Exporters

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a Federal Register notice adding China to the list of countries eligible to export processed poultry and poultry products to the U.S. This designation will be effective as of 24 May.

Section 17 of the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) prohibits the importation into the U.S. of slaughtered poultry, or parts or products thereof, of any kind unless they are healthful, wholesome, fit for human food, not adulterated, and contain no dye, chemical, preservative or ingredient that renders them unhealthy, unwholesome, adulterated, or unfit for human food. A foreign country's poultry inspection system must include standards equivalent to those of the U.S. and the legal authority for the system and its implementing regulations must be determined to be equivalent to those of the U.S. Specifically, a country must impose equivalent requirements in the following areas: (i) ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection; (ii) official controls by the national government over plant construction, facilities and equipment; (iii) direct and continuous supervision of slaughter facilities, where applicable, and product preparation by official inspection personnel; (iv) separation of establishments certified to export from those not certified; (v) maintenance of a single standard of inspection and sanitation throughout certified establishments; and (vi) official controls over condemned product. Foreign countries must also ensure that all certifications required under the poultry inspection regulations can be relied upon before approval to export poultry products to the U.S. may be granted.

The FSIS has determined that China's poultry processing inspection system meets U.S. standards. Accordingly, the FSIS will allow processed poultry products from China to be imported into the U.S., but only if they are processed in certified establishments from poultry slaughtered in certified slaughter establishments in other countries eligible to export poultry to the U.S. China is still not eligible to export poultry products that were slaughtered in domestic establishments.

All poultry products imported from China will be subject to re-inspection at the pertinent port of entry for transportation damage, labelling, proper certification, general condition, accurate count, defects and microbiological contamination. Before a poultry shipment may be presented for re-inspection it must meet all other applicable import requirements, including any restrictions established by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and CBP.

China will be required to certify to the FSIS those establishments wishing to export such products to the U.S., and the FSIS will retain the right to verify that those establishments are meeting U.S. standards. Accordingly, the FSIS will conduct on-site reviews while the establishments are in operation.

To its credit, the FSIS decided to add China to the list of eligible processed poultry exporters despite strong opposition from several legislators and U.S. industry associations. These parties expressed concern that the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) in China could jeopardise the U.S. food supply. Mindful of the hazardous effects of this strain, the U.S. established a temporary prohibition on 4 February 2004 on the importation of unprocessed bird and poultry carcasses, parts and products from China and various other countries. With regard to processed poultry, however, the FSIS believes that the poultry processing procedures in place in China are adequate to destroy the avian influenza virus in the preparation of shelf-stable, fully cooked poultry products.

Several parties, including Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Ranking Democrat Tom Harkin (Iowa), also contended that the FSIS could not ensure that poultry products processed in China for export to the U.S. will contain no poultry that was raised or slaughtered in China. According to the FSIS, however, the Chinese government has committed to require and have procedures in place to ensure that products destined for export to the U.S. are segregated from products intended for domestic commercialisation. The FSIS intends to review production records during its audit visits to Chinese processing plants, including supplier sheets and import and export records, to determine the origin of incoming poultry products received for further processing as well as the final destination of the product. Through these audits, the FSIS will verify that any poultry product received for further processing in a certified establishment and ultimately exported to the U.S. was derived from poultry slaughtered in certified slaughter establishments in other countries eligible to export poultry to the U.S.

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council