USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a new petition requesting the agency to modify its voluntary inspection regulations for exotic animal species to include imported exotic animal products, such as imported venison products.
The petition was filed Oct. 13 by Union, NJ-based D’Artagnan LLC. It asks FSIS to change regulations for voluntary inspection to include an allowance for imported products It says it needs a fix to the problem its venison ground product is having with inspection in the 27 states that are not federally inspected.
“The trimmings for this product are sourced from New Zealand. As such they do not have Federal or state inspection, says D’Artagnan’s Quality Assurance Manager Louis V. Pugliese. “Current federal regulations state that those products sourced from imported trim are considered to be non-amenable species and are therefore not eligible for voluntarily inspected.”
Pugliese says FSIS “at this time will only recognize domestically sourced trimmings.” He filed a petition on Oct. 13 that “respectfully requests that FSIS modify its regulations to include the voluntary inspection of imported species such as venison.”
Bill Merkent, general manager of Thumann Inc., which manufactures assorted meat products for D’Artagnan LLC including venison, supports the petition. He favors “allowing the official markings of voluntary inspection on imported venison processed in USDA recognized establishments.
As the Petitioner, Pugliese wants regulations changed to include these provisions:
(a) Voluntary Inspection Service. An inspection and certification service for wholesomeness relating to the slaughter and processing of exotic animals and the processing of exotic animal products. All provisions of this Part shall apply to the slaughter of exotic animals, and the preparation, labeling, and certification of the exotic animal meat and exotic animal products processed under this exotic animal inspection service.
(b) Only exotic animals which have had an ante-mortem inspection, at either an official establishment or facility which is a USDA approved import facility, as described under this part and which are processed in official exotic animal establishments in accordance with this part may be marked inspected and passed.
(c) Exotic animals, exotic animal meat, and meat food products shall be handled in an official exotic animal establishment to ensure separation and identity of the exotic animal or exotic animal meat and meat food products until they are shipped from the official exotic animal establishment to prevent commingling with other species.
(d) Voluntary inspection shall be granted to imported exotic animals in the 27 states which find the exotic animal to be an amenable species
D’Artagnan’s arguments for the Petition
Presently, non- amenable species from domestic sources are allowed under voluntary inspection. Nowhere in 9 CFR 352 the federal regulations for voluntary inspection do it stipulate that domestic is acceptable but foreign source are not.
The enhancements that D’Artagnan is proposing add clarity to the regulations. Voluntary inspection is in place to ensure the wholesomeness of the products it oversees. With present regulations, a product from an imported source is being put into commerce without the benefit of USDA‘s guidance. As voluntary inspection is funded by fees paid by the requesting company there is no financial burden to the USDA.
The whole basis for the voluntary inspection regulations is The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.
In Sec 202, the second objective of the act is for “Cooperation among Federal and State agencies, producers, industry organizations, and others in the development and effectuation of research and marketing programs to improve distribution processes.
” Federal denial of voluntary inspection and the State inspection not allowing for interstate commerce goes directly against Congress’s objective. In Section 203 of this regulation, the act outlines that the Secretary of Agriculture is directed under subpart (e) “to foster and assist in the development of new and expanded markets (domestic and foreign)”.
Under an “at least equal to” cooperative agreement with FSIS, States may operate their own MPI programs if they meet and enforce requirements “at least equal to” those imposed under the Federal Meat Inspection Act,
Poultry Products Inspection Act and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978. State-inspected meat and poultry products are limited to intrastate commerce only. This regulation is also in indirect conflict with the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. State inspection is in this case beyond Federal regulations so should be fostering the growth of domestic and foreign markets through interstate.
As outlined in this petition, D’Artagnan requests changes in the voluntary inspection regulations. The voluntary inspection ensures the safety of the food supply while in direct support of Congress’ intentions of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 which is the promotion of the domestic and foreign markets.
FSIS says the petition states that the requested action is needed to allow the company to expand sales of its ground product made from venison imported from New Zealand to States that have “at least equal to”
State inspection programs under the Federal meat inspection regulations and in which venison is considered a species amenable to State laws and regulations.
According to the petition, the requested action would have no additional cost or financial burden to USDA because the voluntary inspection is funded by the requesting company.