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Frequently Asked Questions - Equivalence of China’s Poultry Processing and Slaughter Inspection Systems

Why is FSIS auditing China’s poultry system?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for ensuring that America’s supply of meat, poultry, processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. Part of achieving this mission includes ensuring countries that export these products to the United States have food safety systems in place that are equivalent to our domestic system.

If a country requests to export an FSIS-regulated product to the United States, FSIS is obligated to undergo a thorough process to determine whether or not that country’s food safety system is equivalent to ours to ensure that American consumers would receive food that is safe to eat. China has requested such a review in order to export poultry products. In response, over the past several years FSIS has reviewed China’s poultry food safety system in two parts: one system for processing poultry, and one system for slaughtering poultry.

What has FSIS found in its audits?

In August 2013, FSIS announced that based on its review of China’s system for processed poultry, China is eligible to export processed, cooked chicken from the United States and other approved source countries, to the U.S.

On March 4, 2016, FSIS published a follow-up audit report on a follow-up audit of China’s processing system that found China’s processing system continues to be equivalent.

At the time of the 2013 audit, FSIS did not find China’s poultry slaughter system to be equivalent, and therefore China is not eligible to slaughter poultry in its facilities for export to the U.S. China worked to address FSIS’ concerns, and FSIS conducted further reviews of its progress. On March 3, 2016, FSIS finalized an audit showing that China’s poultry slaughter system now meets the criteria for an equivalence determination.

However, the findings in FSIS’ audit report for slaughtered poultry do not mean that China may immediately begin exporting poultry that was slaughtered in China and processed there to the United States. FSIS still must take a number of additional steps before it can make a determination as to whether China’s system for poultry slaughter is equivalent, and therefore that China is eligible to export poultry that was slaughtered in China to the United States.

What must happen for China to begin exporting poultry slaughtered in its facilities to the U.S?

Now that FSIS has finalized a satisfactory audit of China’s poultry slaughter system, FSIS must propose a regulation and seek public comment before determining that China’s poultry slaughter inspection system is equivalent and the country is eligible to export. Once the comment period closes, FSIS will assess the comments that it receives. Based on all the evidence before the Agency, FSIS will make a final determination on China’s equivalence and publish a final decision in the Federal Register. If FSIS ultimately finds that China’s system is equivalent, China will be eligible to export processed poultry sourced from China to the U.S.

China still would not be able to export fresh or frozen raw poultry to the U.S. Because China has certain animal diseases, under Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regulations, no raw poultry is allowed to enter the US from China. However, as indicated in the 2013 announcement, FSIS has determined that China’s poultry processing inspection system is equivalent to that of the United States, and so cooked chicken could be exported from China to the United States.

As always, FSIS is fully committed to protecting the nation’s food supply, and if China begins exporting processed chicken products to the United States, all food safety steps will be taken as if the products were processed in the United States.

What is FSIS’ process for determining whether any country is eligible to export product to the United States?

  • Countries wishing to become eligible to export meat, poultry or egg products to the U.S. must make a formal request by letter.
  • Meat, poultry, and egg products exported from another nation must meet all safety standards applied to foods produced in the U.S.
  • The evaluation of a country’s inspection system to determine eligibility involves two steps:
    1. Document review
    2. An on-site audit review
  • To learn more about the equivalence process, document review, and audit review, please see the following link: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/importing-products/equivalence/equivalence-process-overview.
  • FSIS maintains a robust, three-part system for both establishing equivalence and ensuring countries continue to meet equivalent standards to those of the United States.
  • Once a country is granted equivalence, FSIS will conduct periodic verification reviews and audits of exporting establishments.
  • Product undergoes re-inspection at U.S. ports-of-entry to check for proper certification, labeling, transportation damage and general condition.
  • Selected shipments will be subject to additional re-inspection procedures, including examinations for product defects and laboratory analyses to detect harmful chemical residues or pathogen testing appropriate for the products. FSIS performs increased import re-inspection activities for countries that are beginning to export product to the Unites States.

Can you provide a longer timeline for the United States’ review of China’s poultry inspection system?

  • In 2004, China requested that FSIS initiate an initial equivalence determination for slaughter and processed poultry imports to the United States. FSIS conducted two preliminary on-site assessment audits, one for poultry processing and one for poultry slaughter, to collect documentation and evaluate China’s inspection system, with the aim of facilitating the initial equivalence determination process.
  • In 2006, the United States released the results of the audits. FSIS determined that China’s system for processed poultry was equivalent to that of the U.S. system, but denied China’s eligibility to export slaughtered poultry. The United States began rulemaking and published a final rule in the Federal Register deeming China’s processed poultry system equivalent.FSIS added China to the list of countries eligible to export processed poultry to the United States.
  • In 2006, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees banned the use of funds to import processed poultry product from China. As a result, China was unable to export any processed poultry product to the United States.
  • In 2009, Congress lifted the ban on processed poultry products provided the Department conducted regular audits that included on-site reviews of slaughter and processing facilities, laboratories, and other control operation.

China’s Poultry Processing System:

  • In December 2010, China again requested that FSIS audit their poultry processing systems. In March 2013, FSIS conducted an audit of China’s poultry processing system.
  • On August 30, 2013, after the 60-day comment period, FSIS released the report to the public formally announcing that China’s food safety inspection system for processed poultry meets the United States standard for equivalency.
  • China is currently eligible to export processed, cooked poultry products derived from FSIS approved sources.
  • In May 2015, FSIS conducted another on-site equivalence verification audit of China’s food safety system to determine that its poultry processing system remains equivalent to that of the United States. The audit found that China’s inspection workforce has continued to gain greater knowledge of United States food safety requirements and that it does continue to meet FSIS equivalence criteria.
  • The audit found that China’s poultry processing system continues to meet the criteria for all food safety equivalence components
  • On March 4, 2016, FSIS published a follow-up audit that found China’s inspection system for the processing of poultry to remain equivalent.
  • China remains eligible to export poultry products from approved sources to the United States.

China’s Poultry Slaughter Inspection System:

  • In June 2010, FSIS conducted an audit of China’s poultry slaughter system and concluded that the their inspection system lacked uniform regulatory enforcement across provincial jurisdictions, and that the method used by the CCA to assign inspection personnel to slaughter facilities did not adequately consider important food safety factors such as production line speeds, inspection workloads, or line configuration. FSIS also found that the CCA did not require establishments to maintain food safety prevention plans, known as HACCP plans, equivalent to those that FSIS requires in the United States.
  • China made corrective actions, and FSIS conducted a follow-up audit in March 2013. FSIS found in this audit that China met the principal requirements for Sanitation, HACCP, Chemical Residue Programs, and Microbiological Testing Programs. However, the audit found that China still lacked a standardized method to assign inspection personnel to slaughter facilities based on objective measurements such as inspection methodologies, production line speeds, inspection workloads, and line configuration. China indicated that it would implement changes to its poultry inspection system.
  • In May 2015, FSIS proceeded with a follow-up audit of China’s poultry slaughter inspection system. The audit concluded that China had in fact implemented new actions to address all findings in the 2010 and 2013 audits.
  • On March 4, 2016, FSIS published the 2015 audit of China’s poultry slaughter inspection system. The audit shows that China’s system, as designed and implemented, meets FSIS equivalence criteria.
  • FSIS published the latest audit of China’s poultry slaughter inspection system. FSIS soon will move forward with a proposed rule to list the poultry slaughter inspection system of the PRC as equivalent to FSIS.
  • If China becomes eligible to export poultry products derived from birds slaughtered in Chinese facilities, China’s ability to do so would be limited by APHIS under 9 CFR 94.6, which only permits the importation of cooked poultry products from China into the United States. APHIS has classified China as a region affected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza subtype H5N1 and Exotic Newcastle Disease.

How do I know that China will keep up with food safety standards?

FSIS continues to monitor China’s poultry processing system. The following measures are taken to ensure China maintains equivalence to the U.S. system:

  • China must use a specific and standardized method to provide the United States with detailed information on all aspects of their food safety systems.
  • Chicken products processed in China are subject to increased inspection upon entry into the United States.
  • FSIS will audit China’s poultry processing system annually.
  • If FSIS finds China to be exporting product that does not meet our food safety standards, China will no longer be eligible for export.

As long as FSIS has not found China’s poultry slaughter system to be equivalent, how can I be sure processed poultry from China originated in the United States or Canada?

As a part of evaluating China’s ongoing equivalence, FSIS inspectors verify this documentation at import inspection facilities and during audits.

FSIS has determined that the China’s poultry processing inspection system is equivalent to that of the United States. Consumers should know that any processed poultry from China will be produced under equivalent food safety standards and conditions as U.S. processed poultry. Furthermore, FSIS performs increased inspection activities for countries that are just beginning to export to the United States.

How can I be sure the processed chicken product has been fully cooked?

FSIS makes sure that a veterinary certification accompanies each shipment confirming that the chicken was cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165.2°F.

Will chicken processed or slaughtered in China be included in school lunches?

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service purchases approximately 20 percent of food for the National School Lunch Program on behalf of schools. The product purchased by AMS must be of 100 percent domestic origin, meaning that they are produced and processed from products which were produced, raised, and processed only in the United States.

Schools also make independent purchases on the commercial market to meet the needs of their students. These purchases are governed by section 12(n) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1760), which requires participating schools to purchase domestically grown and processed foods, to the maximum extent practicable.

A domestic commodity/product is defined as “an agricultural commodity that is produced in the United States and a food product that is processed in the United States substantially using agricultural commodities that are produced in the United States.” Schools can consider a product domestic if it is processed in the United States and comprised of at least 51 percent domestic ingredients. Schools have the option of using only products that are 100 percent domestically grown and processed.

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Last Modified Jun 16, 2017