Washington, D.C. – In an audit released October 13, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General once again found that the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) inadequate oversight of imported meat and poultry is putting U.S. consumers at risk.
FSIS is supposed to determine whether countries that export meat, poultry, egg products or catfish have a regulatory system that can meet the standards required in the United States. However, the OIG audit reveals that FSIS is not doing enough oversight of the process used to determine which countries have “equivalent” food safety systems.
“This report shows why we must not allow imports of Chinese poultry or Brazilian fresh meat,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “USDA must fix its oversight system so it can keep potentially dangerous food imports off of our shelves.”
The audit states, “without more robust controls over ongoing equivalence evaluations of foreign countries’ food safety systems, we concluded that FSIS’ inspection program is vulnerable to weaknesses that increase the risk of adulterated or unsafe meat, poultry, or egg products being imported into the United States.”
The OIG found that FSIS fails to conduct audits of other countries’ food safety systems in a consistent, timely manner and that FSIS is not able to adequately monitor which facilities in exporting countries are eligible to send product to the U.S. The OIG also found that FSIS failed to address recommendations made in previous audits of this program about how it conducts audits of other countries’ food safety systems.
The OIG audit also reported that “FSIS officials did not audit equivalent countries on an adequate basis in compliance with policy. Therefore, we concluded that there is reduced assurance that ongoing equivalence is consistently maintained in equivalent countries, which increases the risk to public health within the United States.”
“After more than decade of recommendations from the Inspector General to improve oversight of the safety of imported products, FSIS continues to prioritize the needs of the meat industry above public health,” said Hauter. “With this kind of flawed system in place, FSIS must not move forward with plans to allow imports from countries with questionable food safety systems, including poultry from China and fresh meat from Brazil.”
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]