Food Safety Agencies and Authorities: A Primer Page: 4 of 6
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alternative meats not inspected by FSIS, and shares the responsibility for egg safety with
FSIS. The latter is responsible for the safety of liquid, frozen and dried egg products,
domestic and imported, and for the safe use or disposition of damaged and dirty eggs
under the Egg Products Inspection Act, as amended [21 U.S.C. 1031 et seq.]. FSIS's
current budget is $589 million.
The FSIS inspection force in the field numbers 8,000 and is responsible for
inspection at roughly 6,500 meat and poultry slaughtering and processing plants. FSIS
personnel inspect all meat and poultry animals at slaughter on a continuous basis and one
or more federal inspectors are on the line during all hours the plant is operating.
Processing inspection does not require an FSIS inspector to remain constantly on the
production line or to inspect every item. Instead, inspectors are on site daily to monitor
the plant's adherence to the standards for sanitary conditions, ingredient levels, and
packaging, and to conduct statistical sampling and testing of products. Because all plants
are visited daily, processing inspection also is considered to be continuous.
FSIS is responsible for certifying that foreign meat and poultry plants are operating
under an inspection system that is equivalent to the U.S. system before they can export
their product to the United States. FSIS inspectors located at U.S. ports of entry carry out
a statistical sampling program to verify the safety of imported meat from cattle, sheep,
swine, goats, and equines and imported poultry meat from chickens, turkeys, ducks,
geese, and guineas before they are released into domestic commerce. FDA is responsible
for ensuring the safety of imported meat from any other species.
FSIS's Relationship to State Meat and Poultry Inspection Programs.
Approximately 27 states operate their own meat and/or poultry inspection programs.
FSIS is statutorily responsible for ensuring that the states' programs are at least equal to
the federal program. Plants processing meat and poultry under state inspection can
market their products only within the state. If a state chooses to discontinue its own
inspection program, or if FSIS determines that it does not meet the agency's equivalency
standards, FSIS must assume the responsibility for inspection if the formerly state-
inspected plants are to remain in operation. FSIS also has cooperative agreements with
10 states under which state inspection personnel are authorized to carry out federal
inspection in roughly 255 meat and/or poultry plants. Products from these plants may
travel in interstate commerce.
National Marine Fisheries Service (DOC). Although the FDA is the primary
agency responsible for ensuring the safety, wholesomeness and proper labeling of
domestic and imported seafood products, the NMFS conducts, on a fee-for-service basis,
a voluntary seafood inspection and grading program that focuses on marketing and quality
attributes of U.S. fish and shellfish. Agency officials estimate that the program covers
about 20% of the seafood consumed annually in the United States. If contracted to
provide the service, NMFS personnel may inspect fishing vessels and processing plants
to ensure that sanitary practices are in keeping with FDA standards; they periodically may
evaluate products at processing facilities for general condition, wholesomeness and proper
grading and labeling; and they may sample products for laboratory testing for chemical
and microbiological contamination, decomposition, and species identification. There are
roughly 144 NMFS inspectors and about 100 USDA and state meat inspectors cross-
licensed to perform seafood inspection services under this program. In FY1997, $12
million in user fees was collected for inspection services. The agency also spent about
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Food Safety Agencies and Authorities: A Primer, report, February 5, 1998; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc817487/m1/4/: accessed September 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.