The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), under the Department of Agriculture (USDA), has announced it has brought forward its deadline at which mandatory siluriformes inspections must take place.
Previously, Vietnamese pangasius exporters — and the country itself — were racing to achieve “equivalency” to USDA standards by Sept. 1; inspections of imported fish will now take place from Aug. 2, FSIS said in a notice filed to the Federal Registry.
From this date all shipments of imported siluriformes fish and fish products entering the US must be presented at an “official import inspection establishment” for re-inspection by FSIS personnel.
Two US pangasius importers told Undercurrent News the impact of this change was hard to predict. “It’s just more pressure on the market, as the supply chain gets increasingly altered directives from government,” said one, who declined to be named.
“The USDA is very confused, and is not ready to handle this,” said a second. “It has become political — they apparently asked at one point for the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to handle testing on their behalf.”
The USDA is to cut 5,300 jobs due to budget cuts by the current administration, under president Donald Trump, he added.
“Most import customers are very uncomfortable, they’re asking what will replace swai [pangasius],” he said. “This is a very crazy market – the USDA has no direction and does not provide clear detail.”
On Dec. 2, 2015, FSIS published the final rule, “mandatory inspection of fish of the order siluriformes and products derived from such fish,” establishing a mandatory inspection program for the species.
The final rule set forth regulations in accordance with the provisions of the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, which amended the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) to include all fish of the order siluriformes as amenable species and specifically provided for the inspection of the fish and its products to be used as human food.
Essentially this brought control of inspections of these imports under the control of the USDA, rather than the FDA. Hence, Vietnamese firms have been striving to achieve equivalency to these USDA/FSIS standards.
The final rule became effective on March 1, 2016, but provided an 18-month transitional period until Sept. 1, 2017, to ensure an “orderly transition”.
At the end of the transitional period, all imported siluriformes fish and fish product shipments will be reinspected, just as all imported meat and poultry products are reinspected. This process now begins from Aug. 2.
For full details on applying for re-inspection, see the Federal Registry notice.
On the Vietnamese side reports have varied as to how confident exporters are that their government will be ready to meet the equivalency standard.
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