Su Jin Kong, the imported food policy director for the Republic of Korea, learned on Dec.16 that his country’s regulation for processed poultry products continues to be equivalent to that of the United States.

The finding follows an on-site equivalence verification audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which ran from May 13 to May 29, 2019.

“The purpose of the audit was to determine whether the Republic of Korea’s food safety inspection system governing processed chicken products remains equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and correctly labeled and packaged,” the audit report says.

The Republic of Korea, also referred to as South Korea, currently exports these chicken products to the United States:

  • thermally processed/commercially stable
  • Ready to eat (RTE) fully cooked
  • RTE fully cooked without subsequent exposure to the environment.

The FSIS equivalency audit of the Republic of Korea focused on six elements, including:

  • Government Oversight
  • Government Statutory Authority and Food Safety
  • Government Sanitation
  • Government Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system
  • Government Chemical Residue Testing programs
  • Government Microbiological Testing program.

The audit, which included each component, did not identify any deficiencies that represented an immediate threat to public health.

The audit did find that handwashing sinks were not within easy reach of government inspectors at post-mortem stations for all three chicken  slaughter establishments that were reviewed.

Government inspectors had to leave the inspection stations, not inspecting each and every carcass, in order to reach the handwashing stations.

Similarly, the re-inspection racks of suspect chickens were not within easy reach of government inspectors at post-mortem stations. Government inspectors had to leave the inspection station to place suspect chickens on re-inspection racks.

The Republic of Korea’s central competent authority’s periodic supervisory reviews did not include an inspection of antemortem and post-mortem inspection procedures performed by official inspection personnel.

The FSIS on-site audits included two laboratories, three chicken slaughter establishments, and four processing establishments. South Korea’s food safety headquarters in Seoul and regional offices in Honam and Incheon were also part of the tour.

“During the establishment visits, FSIS auditors paid particular attention to the extent to which industry and government interacted to control hazards and prevent noncompliance that threatens food safety,” the report said.

Korean officials during the exit meeting with FSIS promised to address the findings of the audit. FSIS plans to evaluate the adequacy of Korea’s responses in future equivalency verification audits.

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