Equivalence Process Overview
Countries wishing to become eligible to export meat, poultry or egg products to the U.S. must make a formal request by letter. Letters must come from the foreign government's Central Competent Authority for the inspection of meat, poultry or egg products. For more information on how to apply for initial equivalence, see the Apply for Initial Equivalence page.
Meat, poultry and egg products exported from another nation must meet all safety standards applied to foods produced in the U.S. However, under international law, food regulatory systems in exporting countries may employ sanitary measures that differ from those applied domestically by the importing country. The U.S. makes determinations of equivalence by evaluating whether foreign food regulatory systems attain the appropriate level of protection provided by our domestic system. Thus, while foreign food regulatory systems need not be identical to the U.S. system, they must employ equivalent sanitary measures that provide the same level of protection against food hazards as is achieved domestically. FSIS evaluates foreign food regulatory systems for equivalence through document reviews, on-site audits, and port-of-entry reinspection of products at the time of importation.
Judgments of system equivalence are necessary for FSIS and the American consumer to develop and maintain trust in imported meat, poultry and egg products.
Document Review Process
The evaluation of a country's inspection system to determine eligibility involves two steps:
- document review
- an on-site review
The document review is an evaluation of the country's laws, regulations, and other written information. It focuses on six risk areas: Government Oversight, Statutory Authority and Food Safety Regulations, Sanitation, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems, Chemical Residues, and Microbiological Testing Programs. Technical experts evaluate the information to assure that critical points in the six risk areas are addressed satisfactorily with respect to standards, activities, and resource allocations.
If the document review process shows the country's system to be satisfactory, a technical team will visit the country for an on-site review to evaluate the six risk areas as well as other aspects of the inspection system including plant facilities and equipment, laboratories, training programs, and in-plant inspection operations. FSIS applies to initially determine and periodically verify whether foreign meat and poultry food regulatory systems provide food safety protections equivalent to U.S. domestic regulatory programs.