By Hilary Mare
NAMIBIA, through the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS), underwent a public health and assurance audit by the United States, via its Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) this past month, Confidente can reveal
In July last year, Namibia became the first African country, whose much sought-after beef qualified for the lucrative American export market.
Confidente has also established that as a food business operator, Meatco was audited at plant level by an FSIS auditor.
No deviations (findings) were raised and the Meatco plant was found fully compliant. This inspection was conducted under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for the commercial supply of meat, correct labelling and packaging, in that country.
The audit allows for American authorities to verify that Namibia remains in compliance with maintaining their required standards. This routine audit is conducted on an 18-month to two-year basis.
“The DVS and Meatco performed exceptionally well and this indicates how serious both stakeholders are regarding the commencement of exports to the US market,” said Meatco Executive for Quality Assurance, Rosa Katjivena.
“Although Namibia was granted access to the American market in 2016, we are still waiting for final approval on the labelling of our products, before we can start exporting there.
“It should be understood that product labelling approval is not part of the market access process. It is a separate, continuous procedural process completed with each product. This means that for every new product developed hereafter, we will have to get their labelling approval, as well,” Katjivena added.
Once exports to the US start, Meatco intends to market boneless raw beef products such as primal cuts, chuck-and-blade and beef trimming.
Namibia intends to export some 860 000kg of beef in the first year, rising to 5.7 million kg by the fifth year. The projected Namibian beef imports in the first year would only be about 0.008 percent of total US production and 0.07 percent of total US meat imports. To date, only 33 countries worldwide have been approved to export meat to the US.
Last year, the FSIS said it is amending the federal meat inspection regulations, to add Namibia to the list of countries eligible to export meat and meat products to the US.
“The FSIS has reviewed Namibia’s laws, regulations and inspection system, as implemented, and has determined that they are equivalent to the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), the regulations implementing this statute, and the United States food safety system for meat and meat products.
“Under this final rule, Namibia will only be able to export boneless (not ground) raw beef products to the United States, such as primal cuts, chuck, blade, and beef trimmings, processed in certified Namibian establishments, because the FSIS only assessed Namibia’s meat inspection system with respect to these products, “a statement by the US Office of Policy and Programme Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, confirmed.
The evaluation of the Namibian meat inspection system started in 2002 and resumed in 2005, after which the Namibian government requested approval to export beef products to the US. Namibia stated that, if approved, its immediate intent was to export boneless (not ground) raw beef products, such as primal cuts, chuck, blade, and beef trimmings to the US market.
In 2006, the FSIS conducted a document review to evaluate the laws, regulations, and other documentation used by Namibia to execute its meat inspection programme and an on-site audit of Namibia’s meat inspection system and identified systemic deficiencies. In response to this audit, Namibia submitted a corrective action plan that addressed the FSIS’ findings.
In 2009, the FSIS conducted a follow-up on-site audit to verify that all outstanding issues identified during the previous audit had been addressed. Following that on-site audit, Namibia again provided a corrective action plan to address the issues identified.
In 2013, the FSIS proceeded with a follow-up on-site audit of Namibia’s meat inspection system and verified that Namibia had satisfactorily implemented the corrective actions, in response to the 2009 on-site audit.
Following a series of further audits, to ensure Namibia complies with US regulatory standards, the FSIS determined on the basis of the 2014 on-site audit that Namibia fully met the criteria. In its statement at the time, the US Embassy in Windhoek said: “Namibia may also receive approval to export other meat products in the future, by showing that those products meet other applicable US requirements for those products.”
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