USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued on Wednesday its final rule, effective May 27, that adds South Korea to the list of countries eligible to export slaughtered poultry and poultry parts to the United States. FSIS reviewed Korea’s poultry laws, regulations, and inspection system and determined that the Korean system is equivalent to the U.S. Poultry Products Inspection Act, the regulations implementing this statute, and the U.S. food safety system for poultry.

All such products will be subject to re-inspection at U.S. ports of entry for a number of criteria, such as transportation damage, product and container defects, labeling, proper certification, general condition, and accurate count. In addition, FSIS will conduct other types of re-inspection activities, such as incubation of canned products to ensure product safety and taking product samples for laboratory analysis to detect any drug or chemical residues or pathogens that may render the product unsafe or any species or product composition violations that would render the product economically adulterated.

Products that pass re-inspection will be stamped with the official mark of inspection and allowed to enter U.S. commerce. If they do not meet U.S. requirements, the products will be refused entry and within 45 days will have to be returned to the country of origin, destroyed, or converted to animal food, depending on the violation.

FSIS stated it will conduct on-site audits of Korea’s inspection system each year for the next three years. After three years, FSIS will reassess how frequently it needs to conduct on-site audits of Korea’s system.

FSIS published its proposed rule on Korea poultry on November 27, 2012. In 2005, Korea requested USDA approval to export two types of ginseng chicken stew products to the United States. FSIS explained that, although a foreign country may be listed in the agency’s regulations as eligible to export poultry to the United States, the exporting country’s products must also comply with all other applicable requirements of the United States.

These requirements include restrictions under 9 CFR part 94 of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations, which also regulate the importation of poultry products from foreign countries into the United States. This means that, since USDA has not determined Korea to be free of exotic poultry diseases, all poultry products from Korea must be cooked to a temperature to render the product safe from such possible diseases.

FSIS noted that according to data from Korea, only two Korean establishments will export ginseng chicken stew to the United States. The average combined annual production of these two establishments is 3.2 million pounds (2006–2010 average), and their projected total export volume to the United States will be about 380,000 pounds in the first year of exporting to the United States, gradually increasing to about 2.25 million pounds in the fifth, according to the Korean data.

Ginseng chicken stew is sold commercially in frozen pouches. The United States market for ginseng chicken stew is so small that no data on domestic production, consumption, or importation could be found, FSIS said. Using label application data, FSIS identified two official U.S. establishments that produce and sell ginseng chicken stew. On the basis of information from these establishments, FSIS believes that they are very likely the only two establishments that are producing ginseng chicken stew in the United States; that the market for ginseng chicken stew is limited; (3) the annual production is about 18,000 pouches for one establishment and 10,000 pouches for the other; and (4) each pouch weighs about two pounds. Therefore, the combined production of these two establishments is about 56,000 pounds per year ((18,000 + 10,000) × 2).

The special flavor and taste make ginseng chicken stew unlikely to be a substitute for other kinds of chicken stew in the United States, FSIS added. Therefore, although this rule may affect these two U.S. establishments, the impact to the United States economy is likely to be insignificant, the agency concluded.

The final rule from FSIS is available here.