Ag groups raise concern from USDA "equivalency" announcements

In a joint letter sent last week to USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred Almanza, NPPC, the American Sheep Industry Association, the National Milk Producers Federation and the National Turkey Federation raised a concern about USDA public announcements on other countries" food safety systems.

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) conducts inspections of those systems to determine their equivalence with the U.S. system.

When a foreign country's system is deemed to be equivalent, an announcement is published in the Federal Register for public comment. But the groups pointed out in their letter that such announcements give the impression that meat and meat products then can be immediately exported to the United States.

Before that happens, though, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must review the disease status of a country and complete an assessment of the disease risk of importing meat and meat products from it. The organizations suggested that USDA not publish the results of the FSIS equivalency inspections until APHIS conducts its risk assessments.

If the results must be published, the organizations said, at the very least, the announcements should contain a statement indicating that "no exports to the U.S. can occur until approved by APHIS."