The USDA’s Foreign Audit Reports for Japan and Israel have been released during the past week. Japan’s food safety systems for raw intact beef products were the subject of fieldwork from July 19 to August 17, 2022. Israel’s food safety systems were evaluated from June 27 to July 19, 2022, for processed poultry products.

The final reports were released to the Japanese government on Jan. 3, 2023, and to the Israeli government on Jan. 5, 2023.

The USDA’s foreign audits are conducted by the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Office of International Coordination. In conducting foreign audits, the FSIS focuses on six system equivalence components:

(1) Government Oversight (e.g., Organization and Administration);

(2) Government Statutory Authority and Food Safety and Other Consumer Protection Regulations (e.g., Inspection System Operation, and Product Standards and Labeling);

(3) Government Sanitation;

(4) Government Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System;

(5) Government Chemical Residue Testing Programs; and

(6) Government Microbiological Testing Programs.

Japan’s audit was conducted remotely. Israel’s was an onsite verification audit.

“The purpose of the (onsite) audit was to verify whether Israel’s food safety system governing processed poultry products remains equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and properly labeled and packaged. Israel currently exports ready-to-eat (RTE), fully cooked, not shelf-stable poultry products to the United States,” according to the report.

“An analysis of the (Israeli) audit findings within each component did not identify any deficiencies that represented an immediate threat to public health. The FSIS auditor identified the following findings related to laboratory oversight:

  • Israel’s Central Competent Authority (CCA) has a provision that allows official samples with violative chemical residue test results to be retested at the laboratory’s discretion and has not provided written procedures to ensure that these products cannot be exported to the United States. 
  • The CCA does not ensure that the government microbiological laboratory conducting official testing for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in RTE poultry products fully complies with certain criteria for traceability of test results provided in the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission 17025 (ISO/IEC 17025) standards. Specifically, the FSIS auditor identified that laboratory technicians did not record start and stop times for incubation steps in the Salmonella and Lm methods. 

During the exit meeting, the CCA committed to addressing the preliminary findings as presented. The FSIS will evaluate the adequacy of the CCA’s documentation of proposed corrective actions once received and base future equivalence verification activities on the information provided.

The comprehensive audits of foreign country inspection systems are to ensure compliance with the regulatory requirements of the United States:

  • Federal Meat Inspection Act
  • Poultry Products Inspection Act
  • Egg Products Inspection Act
  • Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act

The purpose of the Japanese audit was to verify whether Japan’s food safety inspection system governing raw intact beef products remains equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and properly labeled and packaged. Japan currently exports raw intact beef products to the United States.

“FSIS concluded that Japan’s raw intact beef products inspection system is organized to provide ultimate control, supervision, and enforcement of regulatory requirements. The Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare (MHLW), Japan’s central competent authority, has required that establishments certified as eligible to export products to the United States implement sanitation requirements and a HACCP system designed to improve the safety of their products,” according to the final audit report.

“In addition, MHLW has implemented official microbiological and chemical residue testing programs that are organized and administered by the national government to verify its system. An analysis of each component did not identify any systemic findings representing an immediate threat to public health.”

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