The petition by the  Meat Import Council of America (MICA) and the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) to allow grants of inspections for foreign meat “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,” may not be going anywhere.

Petition 23-06 was already opposed by the Niagara Falls, NY-based U.S. Canadian Border Inspection Agency. It is against any change to the 50-mile radius rule for conducting Port of Entry Import Inspections.

In comments filed on Dec. 12, Ross Tisdale of the Sweetgrass, MT-based U.S. Import Meat Inspection has also come out against the proposed change

“I am writing to express our advocacy for continuing the 50-mile rule. Port of entry meat inspection at the US border, under the 50-mile rule, is a proactive and critical component of the nation’s food safety measures.” Tisdale wrote. “This comprehensive inspection process is necessary to protect public health, ensure food safety, and prevent the introduction of diseases that could have far-reaching consequences for both consumers and the agricultural industry.” 

“Deviating from the rule would allow massive volumes of uninspected meat to enter American borders. This causes unnecessary risk and has dangerous implications for the integrity of the food safety system. Conducting meat inspection at the port of entry before the product has entered the country is critical for several reasons.”

The petition from MICA and GCCA asks that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service “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.

The FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development is reviewing the petition.

 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. The 50-mile rule for the inspection of foreign meat is FSIS policy.

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 recent comments from US Import Meat Inspection highlight the risk of more distant border inspections.

“Imported meat must meet the regulatory standards set by the USDA, Tisdale writes.  “Conducting inspections at the port of entry ensures timely identification of contaminated, mislabeled, or adulterated meat products. 

“When meat is refused at the port of entry, swift action can be taken to prevent these products from entering the country. The meat is put into restricted storage or physically exported out of the USA and back to the country of origin. Removing the product from the country would take days or weeks if meat were inspected inland. This increases the possibility for un-inspected meat within the US borders to be lost and out of control of FSIS.”

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