STC Number - 268

Import restrictions on EC dairy products

Maintained by: United States of America
Raised by: European Union
Supported by: New Zealand
First date raised: June 2008 G/SPS/R/51, paras. 18-20
Dates subsequently raised: February 2009 (G/SPS/R/54, paras. 27-28)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 04 Dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Equivalence; Food safety; Human health
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2008, the European Communities reported that for several years it had undertaken efforts to improve the market access for its dairy products into the United States. These had included requests for recognition of equivalence of its SPS measures and systems. The US regulatory regime governing the trade of dairy products dated from the 1920's and involved different governmental levels, such as federal and state levels, as well as individual representatives. The European Communities had pursued several options, but with no success. The European Communities underlined the importance of the United States considering the multiple requests for recognition of equivalence.
New Zealand noted that, as a major producer and exporter of dairy products, including fresh milk ingredients and its products, it would like to be kept informed about the developments on this issue.
The United States noted that any EC member State, as well as any other Member, were free to, and did, export many dairy products to the US market. Countries could ship "Non-Grade A" manufactured products such as cheeses, butter, ice cream, and other frozen desserts. It was the responsibility of the supplier of food products for importation into the United States to ensure that the food complied with the applicable US laws and FDA regulations. In the United States, a segment of pasteurized milk products, which were generally referred to as "Grade A" products, were subject to a specific set of hygiene and safety standards, described in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. Products designated as "Grade A" could only be produced by "Grade A" facilities. These products included fluid milk, cultured and acidified milk, cream, sour cream, half-and-half, cottage cheese, yogurt and those dried dairy products that were used as ingredients in these products. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would revisit the EC concerns and work with the EC Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General on this matter.
In February 2009, the European Communities indicated that there had been some progress with the US-EC equivalence exercise on dairy products, but that there were still obstacles, in particular in relation to the US definition of Grade A dairy products. The definition was on a case-by-case basis, but apparently there were discussions about a more precise definition. The European Communities was concerned that if this definition were too tightly drawn, it could exclude certain products. The United States explained that there was no pending legislation in Congress affecting the definition of Grade A dairy products. The US National Conference of Interstate Milk Shippers was holding its biennial meeting in April. Two proposals had been submitted for consideration at the meeting which sought to define "milk products" for purposes of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. Neither of those proposals would expand the scope of products currently included in the Grade A programme. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had sent a letter to DG SANCO and was willing to resume discussions about Grade A dairy product equivalence. FDA anticipated moving forward with the bilateral efforts in this area soon.