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USDA’s inspection service denies petition of Icelandic web-based business

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The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has completed its review of the Nov. 4, 2022 petition from Iceland’s TopIceland.com

The petition asked FSIS to clarify that regulations that prescribe the requirements for importing small amounts of meat products for the importer’s consumption apply to those purchased over the Internet. 

ToppIceland.com  claimed that the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a product for personal importation as not for further sale or distribution into U.S. commerce. The products may be carried in baggage or shipped by courier or international mail. 

The petition argued that, like the FDA, FSIS should not distinguish between delivery modes for importing products for personal consumption.  The FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development reviewed the rule-making request.

TopIceland.com is a small e-commerce business located in Grundarfjordur, Iceland. It’s been in business since 2017, with the U.S. as a primary market.

In response to the Icelandic business, FSIS writes:  “In your petition, you referred to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA)“definition” of personal import and stated that because “the FDA does not distinguish between mode of delivery when defining products for own consumption… 

“TopIceland would thus kindly petition that our imports, which fall under the definition of being for personal import only, would be covered under Regulation 9 CFR 327.16.

”The FDA definition and link cited in your petition are from a statement on an FDA website, not a definition codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. Additionally, the FDA and FSIS have separate statutory authorities and regulatory requirements. The products are under their respective jurisdictions. USDA’s regulations governing imported products in 9 CFR part 327 do not define “personal importation” or “own consumption.”

The response explains the regulations:  “9 CFR part 327 contains the rules governing the importation of meat products into the U.S., including FSIS’ inspection process. Imported meat products must originate from eligible countries with an equivalent food safety regulatory system as determined by the Administrator of FSIS (9 CFR 327.2).

“Within eligible countries, only those establishments that are determined and certified by a responsible official of the country’s meat inspection system to meet requirements equivalent to those of the U.S. are eligible to have their products imported into the U.S. After a country is determined to be an eligible country, FSIS relies on the country’s government inspection personnel to carry out inspection activities. For each consignment imported into the U.S., a foreign inspection certificate issued by an official of the foreign government agency responsible for inspection and certification of the product is required (9 CFR 327.4).”

In denying TopIceland’s petition, FSIS also refused to provide a two-year “adjustment” period in which it could continue to ship products into the United States.

FSIS explained it this way:

“When meat products are brought into the U.S. by travelers, travelers must declare the products on their U.S. Customs declaration form. Custome and Border Protection agriculture specialists at the point of entry will examine the products to determine if they meet entry requirements. 

“FSIS also has the authority and opportunity to inspect any product offered for importation under 9 CFR 327.16 to determine whether it falls under this regulation to be exempt from the standard import requirements and inspection process contained in 9 CFR part 327. This system allows the U.S. government to inspect any imported product to determine whether the products are in the class eligible to be imported. 

“The same opportunity does not exist when products are sent via the mail or courier services because these products are not accompanied by documentation to certify that they meet the criteria to qualify for an exemption from the import regulations in 9 CFR part 327.  The current system also promotes food safety by limiting the amount of uninspected meat products permitted to enter the United States. For these reasons, we have decided to deny your petition.”

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