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Import Regulations on Meat, Poultry and Eggs Updated to Streamline Paperwork and Inspections

Friday, September 19, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a final rule that, effective Nov. 18, will amend its meat, poultry and egg products import regulations to (1) provide for the Public Health Information System Import Component, (2) delete overly prescriptive formatting and narrative requirements for foreign establishments and inspection certificates, (3) require additional information on such certificates, (4) require official import inspection establishments to comply with sanitation standard operating procedures, (5) remove certain streamlined inspection procedures for products imported from Canada, and (6) modify existing policy regarding imported product reinspection. FSIS states that the benefits of this rule include reduced data entry time for import inspectors, streamlined import documentation requirements, and increased effectiveness of import inspection regulations. An additional potential benefit is the option to file mandatory import application data electronically.

Import Paperwork. FSIS is making the following revisions to provide for the Public Health Information System Import Component, which provides an electronic alternative to the paper-based import inspection application and the foreign inspection and foreign establishment certificate processes. The Import Component allows importers to file for FSIS inspection before shipments arrive in the U.S., enables FSIS import inspection personnel to verify import shipments using electronic data, and interfaces with the Automated Commercial Environment to provide the automatic transfer of all import-related data among FSIS and other government agencies that regulate trade.

Foreign Establishment Certification. A foreign government official must annually determine and certify the foreign establishments that are eligible to export their products into the U.S. This rule amends the meat and poultry (but not egg) import inspection regulations to provide concise regulatory language, delete the prescriptive narrative statement on the certificate, and require the type of operations conducted at the foreign establishment and its eligibility status to be included on the certificate. This rule also provides for the electronic transmittal of foreign establishment certifications.

In a change from the proposed rule, FSIS is providing that when there are no changes to a foreign establishment’s certification information from the previous year, the foreign government only has to provide the date, the foreign country, the foreign establishment name and (for paper certificates) the foreign official’s title and signature. Also, the final rule does not require the foreign official’s title for electronic foreign establishment certifications because this information is required in an electronic certification agreement and memorandum of understanding between FSIS and the foreign country.

Imported Product Foreign Inspection Certificates. A foreign inspection certificate is required for every shipment of meat, poultry and egg products offered for import into the U.S. To clarify and simplify this requirement, this rule:

- requires the same information for meat, poultry and egg products;

- deletes the prescriptive narrative and format requirements for meat and poultry certificates; - continues to require paper foreign inspection certificates to bear the official seal of the government agency responsible for the inspection of the product, which had been proposed to be deleted, because no foreign government yet has the capability to electronically transmit foreign inspection certification data (though the rule does provide for such transmittals);

- deletes the requirement that meat certificates be in the language of the foreign country of origin and identify the foreign city where the establishment is located; - requires the name and address of the importer or consignee and the exporter or consignor for meat, poultry and egg product inspection certificates;

- deletes the product destination requirement (which is replaced with the consignee address); - requires the source country and foreign establishment number for the source material when it originates from a country other than the exporting country; - requires the product’s description, including the process category (which FSIS states is an example of the type of product produced, not additional required information), product category and product group; and

- allows FSIS to specifically request any additional information necessary to determine whether the product is eligible to be imported into the U.S.

Import Inspection Application. This rule requires applicants to submit FSIS Form 9540-1, Import Inspection Application, to import inspection personnel for the inspection of any meat, poultry or egg product offered for entry into the U.S. and allows the submission of this form electronically or on paper. For applicants who electronically file entries with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including the participating government agency message set, this entry will replace the paper inspection application. Applicants who do not file PGA message set data or electronically file entries with CBP may continue to submit paper applications at the time the entry is filed, in advance of the presentation of the shipment at the official import inspection establishment. FSIS states that when the revised Form 9540-1 receives final approval from the Office of Management and Budget it will post this form on its Web site and give applicants until March 19, 2015, to transition to it.

Prior Notification of Imported Product. FSIS requires importers to apply for the inspection of imported product as far in advance as possible before the anticipated arrival of each consignment. This rule clarifies that applicants must submit electronic or paper import inspection applications in advance of the shipment’s arrival but no later than when the entry is filed with CBP.

Canadian Product. FSIS is deleting from its regulations the streamlined import inspection procedures for Canadian product, which were suspended in 1992 after the General Accounting Office raised concerns about their effects. Under these procedures Canadian officials contacted FSIS import offices directly for reinspection assignments. If the shipment was not designated for reinspection it could proceed to the consignee for further distribution. If it was designated for reinspection Canadian officials selected the samples and placed them in the vehicle for easy removal and reinspection by an FSIS import inspector.

Sanitation SOPs. This rule requires official meat import inspection establishments to develop, implement and maintain written sanitation standard operating procedures in order to receive a grant of inspection. FSIS is also amending the poultry products regulations to parallel the meat import regulations and require all imported poultry products to be inspected only at an official establishment or at an official import inspection establishment approved by FSIS. A sanitation SOP requirement for egg products will be proposed in a separate rulemaking.

Reinspection. Effective immediately, FSIS is discontinuing a practice under which it reinspected imported product when an official foreign inspection certificate was lost or contained errors based on the foreign government’s guarantee to replace the certificate. FSIS will now only reinspect imported product upon the receipt of the replacement certificate because it can be supplied in a short timeframe (e.g., via email or an expedited mail service).

FSIS is also clarifying its policy of addressing imported product that has bypassed FSIS import reinspection and entered commerce, constituting a failure to present. When a shipment has been identified as FTP, FSIS will request through CBP a re-delivery and appropriate penalties. Any imported product that has not been presented for reinspection at the official FSIS establishment identified on the import inspection application is considered FTP. If FTP product has been removed from the original cartons or further processed, FSIS will initiate a regulatory control action on all applicable FTP product, including any further processed product that contains the FTP product, for appropriate disposition (i.e., destruction).

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