Food Safety:

Issues USDA Should Address Before Ending Canadian Meat Inspections

RCED-90-176: Published: Jul 6, 1990. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) inspection procedures for Canadian meat, focusing on: (1) the process FSIS uses to determine that the Canadian inspection system meets U.S. standards; (2) how current border inspection procedures differ from past procedures; (3) how changes in border inspection procedures between 1988 and 1989 affected the rejection rate, and how rejection rates are used to manage the import inspection program; and (4) whether U.S. plants exporting meat to Canada are receiving satisfactory treatment under the Canadian import inspection system.

GAO found that: (1) in January 1989, FSIS implemented streamlined inspection procedures for Canadian meat to ease its entry into the United States; (2) according to FSIS inspection data, rejection rates for Canadian meat were higher in 1989 than in 1988; (3) FSIS did not require a foreign country's controls and practices to be identical to those in the United States; (4) documentation in FSIS files was not adequate to independently review how FSIS determined the Canadian system's equivalency; and (5) FSIS would have to decide whether adequate import controls would ensure the wholesomeness of Canadian meat.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FSIS has established a process to review and document that the Canadian inspection system is equivalent to the U.S. system.

    Recommendation: As part of the process for deciding whether to go forward with an open border test, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FSIS, to review and document the equivalency of the Canadian inspection system using the risk assessment systems approach or the proposed team approach.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FSIS has dropped the open border proposal.

    Recommendation: As part of the process for deciding whether to go forward with an open border test, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FSIS, to investigate, as part of the equivalency review, the reasons for the high rejection rates in 1989.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FSIS has dropped the open border proposal.

    Recommendation: As part of the process for deciding whether to go forward with an open border test, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FSIS, if the open border test is approved, to incorporate into the evaluation plan an assessment of the impact of an open border on food safety.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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