Uruguay exports raw and processed beef and lamb products to the United States, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finds no reason that those shipments cannot continue.

The FSIS performed an on-site equivalence verification audit in Uruguay Dec. 2 to Dec. 13, 2019, without identifying any systemic findings of shortcomings. The final report dated March 19, 2020, was a clean bill of health for the South American country.

“The purpose of the audit was to determine whether Uruguay’s food safety inspection system governing raw and processed meat (i.e. beef and lamb) products remains equivalent to that the United States, with the ability to export meat products that are thermally processed, commercially sterile beef, ready-to-eat (RTE) salt-cured beef; RTE beef fully cooked without subsequent exposure tot he environment; RTE fully cooked beef; RTE fully-cooked beef; RTE dried beef; RTE acidified /fermented beef (without cooking); raw intact beef; and raw intact lamb to the United States,” says the report.

The audit breaks it down into six “equivalent components” including:

  • Government oversight;
  • Government statutory authority, food safety, and other consumer protection regulations;
  • Government sanitation;
  • Government Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system;
  • Government chemical residue testing programs; and
  • Government microbiological testing programs.

“The FSIS concluded that Uruguay’s meat food safety inspection system is organized to provide ultimate control, supervision, and enforcement of regulatory requirements,” according to the report.

It says Uruguay’s “has implemented sanitary operating procedures and a HACCP system to ensure controls of the food safety inspection system for raw and processed beef and lamb.” Further, the report says Uruguay “has implemented microbiological and chemical residue testing that is organized and administered by the national government to verify the country’s food safety inspection system.”

The FSIS audit says Uruguay’s “central competent authority” for food safety is the General Directorate of Livestock Services, a unit of the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries. It was subjected to a “routine ongoing equivalence verification audit.”

FSIS auditors inspected 10 of the 27 establishments in Uruguay that are currently certified as eligible to export meat products to the United States. The FSIS auditors visited one beef and lamb processing and cold storage establishment, two beef and lamb slaughter establishments, and seven beef slaughter and processing establishments.

“During the establishment visits, the 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.

FSIS assessed Uruguay’s “ability to provide oversight through supervisory reviews conducted in accordance with FSIS equivalence requirements for foreign food safety inspection systems outlined in Title 9 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations (9CFR) 327.2.”

The auditors also inspected microbiology and chemical residue laboratories to verify their technical abilities for the food safety inspection system.

While there were no “systemic findings” to discuss with Uruguay’s officials during the audit exit meeting in Montevideo, the FSIS did share “isolated findings” in the form of checklists for individual establishments they had visited, Uruguay’s food safety officials promised to address those findings.

The “isolated findings” were mostly minor, such as a door seal that was not closing tight and one instance of where beef eligible for export to the U.S. was comingled in a freezer with non-eligible beef

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