[Federal Register: November 12, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 218)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 63983-63985]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr12no03-2]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Part 381

[Docket No. 02-015N]
RIN 0583-AC97

 
Addition of Australia and New Zealand to the List of Foreign 
Countries Eligible To Import Poultry Products (Ratite Only) Into the 
United States

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Affirmation of direct final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing 
that it is confirming the addition of Australia and New Zealand to the 
list of countries eligible to import poultry products (ratite only) 
into the United States (U.S.).
    Under this direct final rule, the meat of ratites slaughtered and 
processed in certified establishments in Australia and in New Zealand 
will be eligible for importation into the U.S. All ratite meat imported 
into the U.S. from Australia and New Zealand will be subject to 
reinspection at U.S. ports-of-entry by FSIS inspectors.

ADDRESSES: Reference materials cited in the direct final rule and all 
comments received are available for public inspection in the FSIS 
Docket Room from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday in Room 
102, Cotton Annex, 300 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20250-3700 and 
on the FSIS Web site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FinalRules03.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Clark Danford, Acting Director, 
Import-Export Programs Staff, Office of International Affairs; (202) 
720-6400.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On October 28, 2000, the President signed the FY 2001 Agriculture, 
Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies 
Appropriations Act (the Appropriations Act), which provided that 180 
days after the date of its enactment, U.S. establishments that 
slaughter or process ratites (such as ostriches, emus, and rheas) or 
squabs for distribution into commerce as human food would be subject to 
the requirements of the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) (21 
U.S.C. 451,et seq.), rather than the voluntary poultry inspection 
program under section 203 of the Agriculture Marketing Act (AMA) (7 
U.S.C. 1622). This provision of the Appropriations Act was effective on 
April 26, 2001. Prior to that time, imported ratite meat was regulated 
by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
    On May 7, 2001, FSIS published an interim final rule (66 FR 22899) 
that amended the poultry products regulations to include ratites and 
squabs within the list of species that are ``poultry'' (9 CFR 381.1(b)) 
and thus subject to the mandatory inspection requirements of the PPIA.
    This interim final rule also announced that within 18 months of 
April 26, 2001, imported ratite or squab products would have to 
originate in countries that were eligible to import poultry into the 
U.S. and would have to be processed in establishments certified by the 
government of the foreign country as eligible to export to the U.S.
    During the 18 months, countries that were eligible to import meat 
into the U.S. were permitted to import ratites

[[Page 63984]]

into the U.S., provided that the animals were slaughtered in an 
establishment certified to export to the U.S. and provided the 
countries submit a request for establishing equivalency. The Federal 
Register document pointed out that Australia and New Zealand were both 
certified to import meat into the U.S. and had indicated that they 
planned to seek equivalency status to import ratites into the U.S. 
under the Federal poultry product inspection regulations.
    In response to Australia's and New Zealand's request to establish 
equivalency to import ratite and ratite products into the U.S., FSIS 
conducted a review of the Australian and New Zealand ratite inspection 
systems to determine whether they are equivalent to the U.S. ratite 
inspection laws and regulations. The review concluded that both 
countries' requirements are equivalent to those mandated by the PPIA 
and its implementing regulations.
    FSIS then conducted an on-site review of the Australian and New 
Zealand ratite inspection systems in operation. Both countries inspect 
ratites under the programs that FSIS has found equivalent to that of 
the U.S. for other species. The on-site review found that both 
countries were in fact implementing the slaughter and inspection 
procedures that FSIS found to be equivalent in its document analysis. 
The FSIS review team concluded that the implementation of ratite 
processing standards and procedures by both countries is equivalent to 
that by the U.S.
    On June 23, 2003, FSIS issued a direct final rule (68 FR 37069) 
announcing that it planned to amend the Federal poultry products 
inspection regulations to add Australia and New Zealand to the list of 
countries eligible to import ratite meat products into the U.S. The 
rule made clear that these countries have consistently maintained their 
eligibility to certify meat slaughter and processing operations, and 
that they meet the equivalency standards.
    The June 23, 2003, direct final rule provided a 30-day comment 
period, ending July 23, 2003. The direct final rule stated that the 
rule would be made effective ``unless written adverse comments within 
the scope of this rulemaking or written notice of intent to submit 
adverse comments within the scope of this rulemaking are received on or 
before July 23, 2003.''
    FSIS received comments in response to the direct final rule, all 
from representatives of the U.S. ratite industry. After careful review 
and full consideration of these comments, FSIS has concluded that none 
of them raised or discussed issues that were ``within the scope of this 
rulemaking.'' None of the comments addressed whether the ratite 
inspection system in Australia and New Zealand is equivalent.
    Most commenters believed that this direct final rule would ``lift 
the import restrictions'' on ratite products and voiced opposition to 
opening the American market to such products. These views reflected a 
misunderstanding of the rule's purpose and effect.
    This change to the regulations does not ``lift import 
restrictions'' on ratite products from Australia and New Zealand or 
``open the market'' to such products, since Australia and New Zealand 
have been able to import ratite products into the U.S. under the 
jurisdiction of FDA for years.
    Under USDA regulations, foreign countries that import ratite meat 
into the U.S. are required to meet import requirements that 
substantially exceed those that were applied by FDA rules. For example, 
under USDA regulations ratite meat may be imported into the U.S. only 
from establishments in countries that have demonstrated to FSIS that 
they have a system of poultry inspection that is equivalent to the U.S. 
domestic program. In other words, foreign ratite meat must be as safe 
and wholesome as domestic ratite meat.
    FSIS conducts annual audits of exporting countries' systems to 
verify the equivalence of their inspection program. Furthermore, under 
USDA jurisdiction, every lot of imported ratite meat must be presented 
to FSIS for reinspection at a U.S. port-of-entry. Products that are 
reinspected and found not to meet U.S. ratite meat standards would be 
rejected and refused entry into the U.S.
    Other commenters focused on the importation of emu oil. The change 
to the regulation pertains only to ratite meat. Emu oil would be 
subject to FSIS jurisdiction only if it were imported for use as human 
food. FSIS is not aware of any direct food use for emu oils. Based on 
FSIS's understanding from the comments, emu oil is used in the U.S. for 
a variety of pharmaceutical purposes, but not for food. The 
pharmaceutical use of an animal-derived product will continue to be 
regulated by the FDA, not USDA.
    Commenters also stated that American ratite farmers cannot compete 
with ratite products from Australia and New Zealand, because those 
countries sell their products at a lower cost than that of U.S. 
producers. However, as stated above and in the June 2003 direct final 
rule, Australia and New Zealand already import ratite meat into the 
U.S. and have been doing so for some time. These foreign establishments 
import approximately 160,000 pounds of fresh or frozen whole, cut-up, 
or deboned ratite meat per year into the U.S. There is no reason to 
believe, nor have the commenters provided any reason to believe, that 
there will be a significant change in volume of trade as a result of 
this rule. Nor is this rule likely to have much of an effect on supply 
and prices. Therefore, this rule is not expected to have an impact on 
small domestic entities that produce these types of products. Even if 
the product quantities and varieties imported increase, there is no 
basis to make any conclusion other than that the volume increase will 
be minimal, and no significant impact will be realized.
    After review and consideration of the comments received, FSIS has 
concluded that the comments received are not adverse comments within 
the scope of the rule. Thus, the Agency is affirming the direct final 
rule adding Australia and New Zealand to the list of countries eligible 
to import poultry products (ratite only) into the U.S.

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 make copies of this Federal Register 
publication available through the FSIS Constituent Update. FSIS 
provides a weekly Constituent Update, which is communicated via 
Listserv, a free e-mail subscription service. In addition, the update 
is available on-line through the FSIS Web page located at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=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 Listserv 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 the Listserv and web page, FSIS is able to provide 
information to a much broader, more diverse audience.
    For more information contact the Congressional and Public Affairs 
Office, at (202) 720-9113. To be added to the free e-mail subscription 
service (Listserv) go to the Constituent Update'' page on the FSIS Web 
site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/update/update.htm. Click on the 
``Subscribe to

[[Page 63985]]

the Constituent Update Listserv'' link, then fill out and submit the 
form.

    Done in Washington, DC, on November 5, 2003.
Dr. Garry L. McKee,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 03-28273 Filed 11-10-03; 8:45 am]