[Federal Register: May 29, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 103)]
[Notices]               
[Page 29075-29076]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr29my01-22]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. 01-015N]

 
Science Based Reinspection of Imported Meat and Poultry Products

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of public meeting.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing a 
public meeting on June 8, 2001, to describe the Agency's plans for the 
modernization of port-of-entry reinspection of meat and poultry food 
products, including changes being made to the Automated Import 
Information System (AIIS).

DATES: The public meeting will be held on June 8, 2001, from 8:30 a.m. 
to 12:30 p.m. Preregistration is not necessary.

ADDRESSES: The public meeting will be held in the Columbia Room, 
Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20024, telephone 
(202) 479-4000. Transcripts of the meeting will be available in the 
FSIS Docket Office, Room 102-Annex, 300 12th Street, SW., Washington, 
DC 20250-3700. In addition to publishing this Federal Register notice, 
before the meeting, FSIS will alert consumers, industry groups, and 
foreign governments of the meeting through its FSIS Home Page at http:/
/www.fsis.usda.gov, and the Constituent Updates and Alerts.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Stuck, Acting Director, 
International Policy Staff, Office of Policy, Program Development, and 
Evaluation, telephone (202) 720-6400, or by FAX (202) 720-7990. 
Individuals wishing to present a prepared statement will be given an 
opportunity to speak at the end of the meeting. Oral statements will be 
limited to 5 minutes, with an opportunity to submit a longer written 
statement for the record. Any individual wishing to make a statement 
should contact Ms. Anita Manka no later than noon on June 7, 2001, at 
(202) 720-6400. In addition, there will be time allowed at the end of 
the meeting for questions and answers. Attendees requiring sign-
language interpreters or other special accommodation should contact Ms. 
Ida Gambrell, by June 1, 2001, at (202) 690-6523 or by FAX at (202) 
690-6519.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The United States Department of Agriculture, through the Food 
Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), ensures that domestic and 
imported meat and poultry products are safe, wholesome, and accurately 
labeled. In 2000, the United States imported 3.72 billion pounds of 
meat and poultry from 31 countries.
    The Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection 
Act require foreign countries that export meat and poultry products to 
the United States to establish and maintain inspection systems that are 
equivalent to the U.S. inspection system. Countries must undergo a 
rigorous review process before they can become eligible to export meat 
or poultry products to the United States. The initial equivalence 
determination includes, but is not limited to, an extensive document 
and on-site review of the country's legislation, its command-and-
control infrastructure, inspector training, inspection procedures, and 
laboratory analytical support services. Even after a country is granted 
eligibility, FSIS periodically audits the foreign country's inspection 
program to ensure that it remains equivalent to the U.S. system. As a 
further check on the performance of the foreign country's inspection 
system, FSIS reinspects products on a

[[Page 29076]]

sample basis as they enter the U.S., after they have already been 
inspected and passed by the foreign country's equivalent inspection 
system.
    About 75 FSIS inspectors carry out reinspection at approximately 
150 official import establishments located at land and water ports on 
the perimeter of the country. All shipments of products are checked for 
proper certification and general condition, and some shipments are 
randomly selected for additional reinspection assignments as directed 
by the Automated Import Information System (AIIS). The AIIS, which was 
implemented in 1978, is a computer system that links all ports of 
entry, makes inspection assignments, and collects compliance histories 
for countries and plants. FSIS uses AIIS information in verifying and 
evaluating the performance of the foreign country's inspection system. 
FSIS import inspectors enter data about shipments, and the AIIS 
identifies shipments for sampling and determines the appropriate 
inspection assignment. Assignments can include product examination; 
determination of condition of container; and microbiological, residue, 
and food chemistry laboratory analysis.
    The principle underlying FSIS import inspection activities is the 
systems approach, which focuses on a foreign country's overall 
inspection system rather than on individual establishments. The intent 
of the current revision of the port-of-entry reinspection program is to 
extend the systems approach to all port-of-entry activities.
    For all countries except Canada, the monitoring assignments 
directed by the AIIS are based on the compliance history of the foreign 
plant for the specific product being imported. Since 1989, FSIS has 
used a random sampling approach for shipments from Canada. For Canada, 
the AIIS randomly selects shipments from the country, as a whole, for 
monitoring sampling by FSIS. Once selected, a shipment is subject to 
the full range of reinspection assignments applicable to the specific 
product. By contrast, the shipments selected for reinspection from all 
other countries are subject to one or more reinspection assignments 
based on the compliance history of the plant.
    FSIS plans to revise the port of entry reinspection program for 
imported meat and poultry products by extending to all countries the 
systems approach used to monitor Canada for more than 10 years. FSIS 
plans to revise the reinspection system to: (1) Focus the sampling of 
products at port of entry on monitoring a country's inspection system 
rather than individual plants within the system; (2) reprogram the AIIS 
to accommodate the new system and to provide better information for 
making equivalency decisions; and (3) modify procedural and facility 
requirements for import establishments to increase the responsibility 
of the industry for control of imported meat and poultry. Some elements 
could require rulemaking, and FSIS will use the public meeting to 
explain current thinking on the subject.
    Re-programming the AIIS is long overdue and will provide an 
automated system better able to respond to inspection changes and to 
provide timely reports on a country's performance to program managers. 
FSIS estimates that the new system will be fully operational by the end 
of 2001. Adoption of the systems approach for port-of-entry 
reinspection of meat and poultry from all countries will facilitate the 
collection of more statistically reliable data on a country's 
performance. FSIS currently uses more than 300 product codes to 
designate product categories for import reinspection. Changing the 
entry of shipment data in the AIIS to processing categories already 
established by FSIS in the HACCP regulations (9 CFR 417.2(b)(i)-(ix)), 
e.g, raw product ground; raw product not ground; thermally processed-
commercially sterile; product not heat treated-shelf stable; and fully 
cooked-not shelf stable, will streamline the system and make it more 
compatible with HACCP rules. Using the domestic program's processing 
category system will simplify entry, ensure consistency between 
domestic and imported requirements, and provide a seamless system that 
can be more easily used by all FSIS inspectors.
    FSIS will not change the standards used to judge the acceptability 
of meat and poultry products re-inspected at the port of entry. When 
the shipment fails a reinspection, the exporting establishment will 
continue to be subject to follow-up sampling, which is in addition to 
the targeted monitoring levels for the exporting country.
    FSIS believes that the modernization of the way it performs 
reinspection of imported meat and poultry products is necessary to 
fully utilize the systems approach and to strengthen the basis for 
judging the continued equivalence of inspection systems maintained by 
foreign countries exporting meat and poultry products to the U.S.
    The Agency invites all interested parties to participate in the 
June 8, 2001, public meeting to gain a better understanding of the 
changes FSIS plans to make and to have the opportunity to request 
clarification.

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to better ensure 
that minorities, women, and persons with disabilities are aware of this 
notice, FSIS will announce it and provide copies of this Federal 
Register publication in the FSIS Constituent Update. FSIS provides a 
weekly FSIS Constituent Update, which is communicated via fax to over 
300 organizations and individuals. In addition, the update is available 
on-line through the FSIS web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov. 
The update is used to provide information regarding FSIS policies, 
procedures, regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS public 
meetings, recalls, and any other types of information that could affect 
or would be of interest to our constituents/stakeholders. The 
constituent fax list consists of industry, trade, and farm groups, 
consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, scientific 
professionals, and other individuals that have requested to be 
included. Through these various channels, FSIS is able to provide 
information to a much broader, more diverse audience. For more 
information and to be added to the constituent fax list, fax your 
request to the Congressional and Public Affairs Office, at (202) 720-
5704.

    Done at Washington, DC on: May 23, 2001.
Thomas J. Billy,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 01-13387 Filed 5-25-01; 8:45 am]
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