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New Tool Aims to Ease Foreign Country Reporting on Equivalence of Food Regulatory Systems

Monday, February 23, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is making available to the public its new Web-based Self-Reporting Tool that it is sending to foreign countries to report information on their food regulatory systems for the purpose of establishing that those systems are, or continue to be, equivalent to the United States’ system.

A foreign country interested in exporting to the U.S. is required to submit information concerning its food regulatory system (e.g., laws, regulations and policy issuances). FSIS uses the equivalence questionnaire, called the SRT, to collect this information for its document review of the food regulatory system of foreign countries that are listed in the regulations as eligible to export meat, poultry or egg products to the U.S. as well as countries interested in becoming eligible. In the past, the SRT was available in a Microsoft Word format and was submitted to FSIS along with corresponding supporting documentation either by mail or email.

On Feb. 17, FSIS launched a Web-based version of the SRT within its Public Health Information System to more efficiently capture up-to-date information about foreign food regulatory systems. FSIS anticipates that use of the Web-based SRT will decrease the time it takes to review an SRT submission and thereby allow for a quicker response to an equivalence request. In addition, using PHIS as a platform for the SRT allows for a more secure exchange of information between FSIS and foreign countries. However, use of the Web-based SRT is voluntary, and FSIS will continue to accept the current Microsoft Word version of the SRT.

Countries that are currently eligible to export meat, poultry and egg products to the U.S. must submit their completed SRTs before May 18, 2015, and annually before May 18 thereafter. FSIS will send SRTs to all countries currently eligible to export meat, poultry and egg products to the U.S. on Dec. 1 of each year in the future. In addition, countries applying for initial equivalence determinations after Feb. 23 must submit their completed SRTs within one year of receiving the SRT.

If a country does not provide FSIS with documentation showing its system is equivalent or continues to submit inadequate documentation, FSIS may have to pursue actions directed at product presented for reinspection (e.g., intensified testing) and likely would begin refusing to list establishments newly certified by the foreign government or to relist certified establishments. FSIS may also, within a reasonable period of time, refuse entry to products exported from that country. Finally, if it becomes necessary, FSIS will take steps to remove the country from the list of countries eligible to export meat, poultry or processed egg products to the U.S.

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