WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is considering adding Honduras to the list of countries eligible to export poultry products to the United States. If successful, Honduras intends to export products such as whole carcasses to the US, FSIS said.

Honduras currently is eligible to export raw and processed meat products, FSIS said. But animal disease restrictions have kept poultry from Honduras out of the US. Honduras is not on the list of Newcastle Disease-free countries. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations restrict importation of poultry carcasses, meat, parts or products of carcasses, and eggs (other than hatching eggs) of poultry, game birds, or other birds from Honduras. However, Honduras is requesting APHIS review the country’s Newcastle Disease status, and APHIS is conducting a review and evaluation, FSIS said.

FSIS audited Honduras’ poultry slaughter inspection system twice, once in 2006 and again in 2009. Both audits revealed deficiencies such as failure to implement procedures to verify establishments met HACCP requirements, and inadequate controls over the implementation of laboratory quality systems associated with microbiological testing of products intended for export to the US. After the 2009 audit, Honduras developed a comprehensive action plan to correct those deficiencies, FSIS said, and a third on-site audit in September 2014 found that corrective actions had been taken.

“The auditor verified that all corrective actions to the 2009 audit findings were implemented as escribed, and working as intended,” FSIS said. “There were no new audit findings observed by the auditor during the 2014 on-site audit.

“The resolution of previous audit findings and the absence of new audit findings supports the conclusion that the Honduran poultry regulatory system cumulatively achieves a level of protection equivalent to that provided by the United States’ poultry inspection system.”

Honduras intends to certify only one establishment for now, according to FSIS. The expected volume in the first three years is forecast at 10,211 metric tons. FSIS said the amount will increase to 11,231 mt by the fourth year and 12,335 mt by year five. FSIS does not expect the addition of Honduras to the list of eligible poultry exporters to significantly impact poultry processors in the US.

“Should the proposed rule become final, FSIS estimates Honduras’ exports would comprise 0.6 percent (10,211 mt from Honduras compared to a US slaughter volume of 17.9 million mt in 2014) of the United States market annually the first three years,” the agency reported. “FSIS estimates Honduras’ exports would continue to comprise 0.6 percent of the United States market the fourth year and increase 0.7 percent the fifth year.

“FSIS projects that Honduras would not alter the United States poultry supply and would not have an impact on domestic poultry prices.”

FSIS is seeking comments on the proposal. The deadline to submit comments is on or before June 13, 2016. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov or via mail to: US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Docket Clerk; Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Mailstop 3782, Room 8-163A; Washington, DC 20250-3700.