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USDA Continues to Modernize International Food Safety Program

Posted by Jane Doherty, International Coordinator, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety Trade
Feb 21, 2017

Each year, America imports over 3.5 billion pounds of meat, poultry, and egg products. As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, it is important to continually strengthen our regulatory programs to ensure that the food on your family’s table is safe. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency that verifies these products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, whether they are produced in the U.S. or abroad.

Over time, we have taken a number of steps to ensure that domestic and international facilities are delivering only the safest possible product to store shelves. In the past year, FSIS created the Office of International Coordination (OIC) as part of our effort to strengthen our agency’s focus on international issues. This is the office I oversee. This week, to facilitate determinations of initial and ongoing equivalence, we launched our improved and web-based Self-Reporting Tool (SRT) to allow foreign countries to submit their equivalence responses and documentation through an efficient and secure online portal.  This new tool saves time previously spent sifting through paperwork and allows us to focus our efforts on upholding FSIS’ strong food safety standards. This consolidated web-based version is yet another advance made possible by the Public Health Information System (PHIS) that helps us collect, consolidate, and analyze equivalence and import data more efficiently.

Our mission is to protect the public health, and our system boasts stringent science based requirements that are respected around the world. Before any FSIS-regulated product can come to the United States, we must first determine whether the foreign food safety system meets the same levels of protection that we set here in the United States.  This concept is known internationally as “equivalence.”   The very first step of our equivalence process is the SRT questionnaire and using it to collect information about the country’s food safety system.  Information gathered in the SRT includes everything from the training of food inspectors to pathogen sampling. Once we verify that the country’s laws are equivalent, we verify that they are implemented effectively, which brings us to the second step: FSIS auditors travel to government offices, laboratories and plants in the country to perform on-site assessments of the country’s food inspection system first-hand.  Finally, the third step before the food makes it into domestic commerce: all product shipped to the United States is inspected again upon arrival at the U.S. point of entry.

In a changing world, FSIS has adopted new innovative technologies and approaches to better protect the public health.  However, FSIS continues to rely on its most valuable food safety resource—our inspectors, our auditors, and the food safety professionals who support them.  Our inspection system is one of the most trusted in the world, and it exemplifies our commitment to not only a safe food supply here in the U.S., but globally. Food safety is a global issue, and consumers can have confidence that the food they eat is safe, wholesome and properly packaged and labeled.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety Trade

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Feb 24, 2015

The meat of animals fed with chemical provender is not safe for human's food. To what extent do the global regulations take this dangerous fact in consideration?

Royal Rife
Feb 24, 2015

Pathogens are one thing, chemicals and GMO's are another. Some countries have banned US meats for hormones and other chemicals. Others have banned our foods for being GMO and for the food additives and residues of pesticides and herbicides.