The Niagara Falls, NY-based U.S. Canadian Border Inspection Agency opposes any change to the 50-mile radius rule for conducting Port of Entry Import Inspections.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was asked in a July petition by the  Meat Import Council of America (MICA) and the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) to allow grants of inspections for establishments “beyond a 50-mile geographic radius of a U.S. land or sea port of entry where individual circumstances and conditions may justify the action.”

But in recently filed comments on the petition, the U.S. Canadian Border Inspection says the 50-mile radius rule is one of the most critical safeguards for food safety involving meat inspections at the port of entry.

The petition from MICA and GCCA asks FSIS to “consider reinterpreting the restrictive 50-mile” policy rule for grants of inspection to establishments performing import inspections (I-houses). The rule, an internal policy not captured by regulation, unnecessarily restricts import inspection activity by arbitrarily limiting approved establishments to operate within a 50-mile geographic radius of a U.S. ocean or land port of entry, the industry groups contend.

“Port of Entry (POE) FSIS import inspection is called ‘PORT’ of Entry for a reason. All FSIS import inspection activity takes place at the ports (within 50 miles) to provide the USDA maximum control over imported meat products,” the agency’s opposition comments said.

“The further away from the port of entry an imported meat shipment travels without being inspected, the greater the chances are for a food safety incident including but not limited to failure to present for inspection, processing of un-inspected imported meats, co-mingling of hazardous materials on meat trailers, undue pressure on USDA inspectors from processing facility management eager to process the imported meat,” it continues.

“All of these reasons are why the USDA GAO audits found that in-land inspection does not provide the same level of protection or control as a port of entry inspection. The further away from a border that the inspection takes place, the greater the changes are for un-inspected contaminated imported meat to enter the food supply,” according to the agency’s Nov. 8 submission.

The MICA/ GCCA petition claims, “there are  no statutory or regulatory requirements for grants of inspection to be limited to facilities located within 50 miles of a U.S. port of entry.”  The petition says the decades-old practice grew up out of “resource and labor constraints, rather than for specific food safety or animal health concerns.”

The petition,23-06, is being reviewed by the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development. 

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) considers the U.S. “border” as any area that is within 100 miles of “an external boundary of the United States.” There are 314 Ports of Entry into the U.S., with many located far from the geographic ocean or land ports.

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