Federal Inspections | jgersen | August 20, 2017


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Federal Inspections

Renee Johnson, The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer, Congressional Research Service RS22600 (Dec. 16 2016) (excerpt)

Federal Food Safety Inspections

As of February 2016, a reported more than 300,000 domestic and foreign food facilities were registered with the agency and are potentially subject to inspection FDA reports. Of these, about 88,000 facilities are domestic (U.S.) registrations, and 212,000 facilities are foreign registrations. Registration of domestic and foreign food facilities is required under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (“Bioterrorism Act,” P.L. 107-188).28 Most recent available information for FY2012 indicate that FDA and the states under contract with FDA inspected 24,462 domestic food facilities and 1,342 foreign food facilities.  http://wwfda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/foodfacilityregistration/ucm236512.htm. 

Data compiled by FDA indicate that, on average, between 10% and 30% of all domestic facilities are inspected by FDA annually, most of which are considered “high-risk” facilities. Estimates of unannounced compliance inspections of domestic establishments by FDA officials range from once every five years to once every 10 years, on average, although the agency claims to visit about 6,000 so-called “high-risk” facilities on an annual basis. In general, FDA relies on notifications from within the industry or from other federal or state inspection personnel to alert it to situations calling for increased inspection. 

FDA inspection rates of imported foods are much lower, with a reported roughly 2% of all food import lines being physically examined by FDA. Previously, GAO reported that FDA inspections covered only about 1% of the food imported under its jurisdiction. Although FDA is not able to physically inspect a large percentage of food entering the United States, FDA electronically screens all import entries using an automated system known as Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting (PREDICT) information technology system. In addition, FDA can issue import bulletins to signal field inspectors to pay special attention to a particular product, or a range of products from a particular producer, shipper, or importer. 

Food Safety and Inspection Service

The number of regulated meat and poultry facilities under USDA’s jurisdiction is much lower and has remained mostly stable over time. Much of the agency’s work is conducted in cooperation with federal, state, and municipal agencies, as well as private industry. FSIS currently conducts inspections in 6,389 establishments. This compares to 2002, when USDA reported that it conducted inspections in about 6,000 establishments. This total includes Talmadge-Aiken plants, wherein state inspectors perform inspections under federal inspectors’ supervision. There were 350 Talmadge-Aiken plants in 2015, up from 235 in 2002.

Of the total number of meat, poultry, and egg establishments under FSIS jurisdiction, about 1,100 plants either slaughter or slaughter and process livestock or poultry. More than 4,000 facilities only process meat and poultry, and about 80 process egg products. FSIS also reinspects imported meat, poultry, and egg products at about 140 import reinspection facilities. 



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August 20, 2017

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Jacob Gersen

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