The audit was conducted at four facilities from July 11-22, 2016. Three establishments are in Zhucheng, Weifang and Qingdao, Shandong province and a fourth is in Chuzhou, Anhui province.
Currently, China is eligible to export processed chicken to the US if the product is fully cooked and packaged — but not slaughtered — before export. However, raw poultry used for processed chicken products must originate in the US, Canada or other countries approved to export poultry to the US, according to FSIS. A new proposed rule would allow exports of poultry raised in China.
The new rule is said to be part of an agreement between the US and China to allow US exports of beef to China in exchange for Chinese poultry exports to the US. Shipments of US beef to China were approved to resume earlier this year after a 13-year hiatus.
In an audit of four poultry processing facilities in China, FSIS auditors focused on six equivalence components:
- Government oversight (organization and administration);
- Government statutory authority and food safety and other consumer protection regulations (inspection system operation, product standards and labeling, and humane handling);
- Government sanitation;
- Government Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) System;
- Government chemical residue testing programs; and
- Government microbiological testing programs.
“Minor deficiencies identified in the implementation of Government Sanitation and Government HACCP System component requirements were corrected immediately,” FSIS said in the report. “The audit did not identify any significant findings that represented an immediate threat to public health from the products being manufactured.”
FSIS deemed the overall enforcement of sanitation requirements “acceptable” at the facilities, but auditors noted “…several isolated small areas in the production rooms of the establishments that in-plant inspectors and the establishments had failed to adequately assess prior to the audit.”
“The identified non-compliances did not pose an immediate threat for contamination of products, since they mainly involved non-product contact surfaces,” FSIS said in the report. “CIQ [China Inspection and Quarantine] officials promptly instructed the establishments to correct the deficiencies and verified the adequacy of the implemented corrective actions.”
FSIS auditors also found flaws in the design of the written portions of the HACCP programs at two of the processing facilities.
“At one establishment, the flow chart prepared for cooked poultry that was broiled and then steam cooked did not include the step where product that exits the broiler was assembled prior to entering the steam cooker,” according to the report. “Consequently, that step had not been included in the hazard analysis. In addition, at two of the audited establishments, the FSIS auditors noted flaws in the written hazard analysis. At one of those establishments, bacterial pathogens, rather than the toxins produced by spore-forming toxigenic bacteria, were identified as the hazard to be controlled at the stabilization of cooked product step.”
However, FSIS said the establishments promptly corrected the reported flaws in the HACCP design and flow charts. Chinese inspection officials and the FSIS auditors verified the adequacy of the corrective actions, the report states.
The US imports very little poultry products. Access to high-quality feed products, technological expertise in poultry breeding and genetics and animal health practices make the US the most efficient producer of poultry products in the world, according to the National Chicken Council. These advantages make it difficult for other countries to compete in the US and abroad.
Still, food-safety advocates in the US have criticized the decision to allow chicken processed in China to be sold in the US. Outbreaks of avian influenza, tainted baby formula and frozen meat smuggled into mainland China, among other food safety scandals have triggered concerns about the integrity of food safety processes in China.