USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent one of its auditors back to Argentina this past December to confirm that the South American country was making the corrective actions requested in the regular 2019 audit.

The follow-up audit, with an in-country visit from Dec. 2 to Dec. 6, 2019, was to check-up on proposed corrective actions that Argentina promised to take after the last USDA audit, which included in-country inspections from Feb. 25 to March 15, 2019.

The purpose of the follow-up audit was “to determine whether Argentina’s food safety inspection system governing meat remains equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and correctly labeled and packaged.”

Argentina exports raw intact and fully cooked, not shelf stable ready-to-eat (RTE) beef to the United States.

“The FSIS auditor concluded that Argentina’s meat inspection system is organized to provide ultimate control, supervision, and enforcement of regulatory requirements,” the March 20, 2020, follow-up report says. “The CCA has implemented measures to ensure the use of government employees for all post-mortem inspection of livestock intended for export to the United States. In addition, the CCA (Central Competent Authority) has implemented measures to ensure system-wide controls prohibiting the analysis of counter-samples following a violative chemical testing result.”

Argentina’s CCA is the National Service of Animal Health and Agro-Food Quality (SENASA). The FSIS auditor met with SENASA officials Dec. 2 in Buenos Aires to go over the follow-up audit’s objective, scope, and methodology.

“As a result of the targeted approach of this audit to verify the implementation of corrective actions, not all aspects of the SENSA inspection system were audited, ” the report says.

Two beef slaughter and processing facilities, laboratories in Buenos Aires, and SENASA’s headquarters were included in the in-country visit by U.S. officials.

The FSIS also reports that it conducted 100 percent reinspection for labeling and certification on 1,.4 million pounds of beef exported by Argentina to the United States from Aug. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2019.

The USDA’s subagency also performed reinspection on 192,440 pounds at port-of-entry for additional types of inspection, including testing for chemical residues and microbiological pathogens including Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella species, of which a total of 18,600 pounds were rejected for detection of STEC 26.

“The FSIS auditor verified that the corrective actions in response to the previously reported findings were implemented and effective in resolving the findings,” according to the report.

One of the concerns that led to the follow-up audit was Argentina’s reliance on nongovernment “establishment” personnel for post-mortem inspections. The FSIS auditor newly hired government inspection personnel are now doing post-mortem inspections for all beef and meat exports to the United States.

The report says those post mortem inspections are “performed exclusively by government inspection personnel.”

“The FSIS auditor concluded that the CCSA’s food safety inspection system has the organizational structure to provide ultimate control, supervision, and enforcement of regulatory requirements this component,” the report says.

Chemical residue testing was the second focus area for the follow-up audit. In the December visit, the FSIS auditor reviewed records and interviewed the private chemical laboratory approved for such work by SENASA.

From that, the auditor was able to confirm SENASA’s corrective actions were sufficient. The report says the regulatory requirements for chemical residue testing remains under the control of the national government.

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