In Spite of Bird Flu Outbreak, USDA Approves South Korean Poultry Products
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a final rule that would grant equivalency status to the Republic of Korea so that it could begin to export poultry products to the U.S. The rule becomes effective May 27, 2014.
Food & Water Watch filed comments opposed to the rule when it was first proposed in January of 2013. In our comments, we cited violations of U.S. food safety and inspection standards observed by FSIS auditors who visited Korean poultry slaughter and processing facilities in 2008 and 2010.
In those audits, FSIS auditors found:
- Inspection activities were performed by company employees with no government oversight
- Failure to implement and verify sanitation programs
- Failure to implement and verify Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) requirements within the food safety regulatory system
- FSIS staff was unable to visit Korean government laboratory facilities that conducted chemical and microbiological analyses of poultry products
- The Republic of Korea food safety authority did not provide adequate control for post-mortem inspection in the facilities that would be eligible to export to the U.S.
- The Republic of Korea food safety authority did not provide adequate control over the implementation of laboratory quality systems within its residue program
- The Republic of Korea food safety authority did not provide adequate controls over the implementation of laboratory control quality systems for its microbiological testing program for products destined for export to the U.S.
While the Republic of Korea acknowledged the deficiencies found in the 2010 audit, there was no on-site verification conducted by FSIS to determine that those issues had been properly addressed. Instead, FSIS relied on written assurances.
In the meantime, Korean poultry flocks have been afflicted with various strains of avian influenza prompting the Korean government to cull over 11 million chickens and ducks in January of this year to prevent the disease from spreading even further. Recent reports have the disease crossing species and sickening dogs.
“We find the decision by FSIS to be irresponsible and surmise that it is trade related,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “This final rule may by a little goodie that the U.S. is using to entice South Korea to join Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. Once again, it may yet be another instance of the Obama Administration allowing trade to trump food safety.”
Final rule released today in Federal Register: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-03-26/html/2014-06652.htm
Food & Water Watch’s comment, January 25, 2013: http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/korean_equivalency_comment.pdf
FSIS Audit report and proposed corrective actions, June 2, 2011: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/0faca7ce-19d4-44e8-8937-1a17f1903645/Korea2010.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
Article: S. Korea reports additional infection of bird flu in dogs, Yonhap News Agency, March 24, 2014: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/140324/s-korea-reports-additional-infection-bird-flu-dogs
Contact: Anna Ghosh, [email protected], 510-922-0075