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USDA agency reports 1.7 million verifications in 3Q of FY 2017

Enforcement actions by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled are reported each quarter.

The latest enforcement report, released Thursday, covers the federal government’s third quarter, from April 1 through June 30. It logs thousands of inspection procedures performed by FSIS personnel in federally inspected establishments on a daily basis to determine whether or not the facilities meet regulatory requirements.

FSIS inspectors make a written record known as a Noncompliance Record, or NR, when an establishment falls short of requirements.

During the third quarter, FSIS personnel performed more than 1.7 million verification procedures. They identified 27,697 NRs, for a 98.4 percent compliance rate.

Establishments filed 274 NR appeals during the quarter, with 69 granted and 119 denied. Twenty-six resulted in modifications. When the quarter ended, 60 pending appeals remained.

FSIS also inspects imported meat and catfish species at ports of entry. It calls this activity “reinspections.” That’s because the foreign product passed an equivalent inspection before arriving in the United States.

In the third-quarter report, FSIS said the reinspection “is also a means of verifying the equivalence of a foreign country’s inspection system on an ongoing basis.” FSIS reinspects all shipments of both imported meat and Siluriformes fish, which includes catfish.

During the quarter, imported meat and poultry reinspections totaled over 1 billion pounds, with 25,920,502 pounds refused entry. Imported egg products presented for reinspection totaled 2,649,801 pounds, with 41,720 pounds blocked from entry.

FSIS inspection personnel can condemn livestock and poultry for disease, contamination or other reasons to prevent the animal from being used as human food.

A USDA inspector inspects the “specified risk materials” of a beef carcass, which includes the small intestine. Photo courtesy of USDA

During the April to June quarter, FSIS inspected 37,967,115 livestock carcasses, condemning 52,949. FSIS inspected more than 2.3 billion chickens and turkeys during the period and condemned 9.7 million. Domestic production during the period was off slightly during the quarter.

FSIS can also detain products found in commerce when they are in violation of the law. The third quarter saw 99 detention actions involving 474,499 pounds of meat, poultry and eggs. The southwest region of the FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA) was the most active with 38 detention actions involving 349,412 pounds of regulated products.

The FSIS Office of Field Operations (OFO) detained one shipment of 48,566 pounds out of its Raleigh office. It is the only OFO detention action of the year, so far.

FSIS also uses civil and criminal actions in federal court to achieve enforcement goals. There were no criminal actions during the quarter. Civil and administrative remedies are detailed in the report.

FSIS can issue a Notice of Warning (NOW) to firms violating statutes or regulations. Some NOWs are referred to U.S. Attorneys for possible prosecution.

OIEA issued 347 NOWs during the quarter, including 141 in the Northwest Region.

Four companies paid civil penalties during the period:

  • Crown Food Distributors of Hackensack, NJ, paid $560;
  • Keeley Food Service of Chicago paid $780;
  • Up Northern International Trading Inc. of Cranston, RI, paid $740; and
  • VM Tropical Meat Market of Brooklyn, NY, paid $740.

Each of the four companies entered into a Civil Penalty Stipulation Agreement under which it agreed to pay the fine.

FSIS did not execute any seizure actions during the quarter.

The agency did take action following up on a previous complaint against Astoria, NY-based Astoria Live Poultry and Meat Inc. and owner Gamal Rahman for failing to meet requirements to operate as an exempt poultry and meat slaughter operation.

Rahman sold products to retail stores and failed to maintain sanitary conditions and keep adequate records of his business transactions.

FSIS filed a civil complaint against Rahman and his company on June 23. Four days later the U.S. District Court for Eastern New York signed off on a consent decree that permanently enjoins the poultry and meat business from any further violations of FSIS regulations.

The court order also requires the company to give FSIS access to the facility and records for annual reviews and follow-ups.

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