STC Number - 9

Zero-tolerance for salmonella in imported poultry products

Maintained by: Chile; Czech Republic; El Salvador; Honduras; Slovak Republic
Raised by: United States of America
Supported by: Argentina; Canada; Japan
First date raised: October 1996 G/SPS/R/6 paras. 18-25
Dates subsequently raised: March 1997 (G/SPS/R/7 paras. 52-53)
July 2001 (G/SPS/R/22 para. 127)
Number of times subsequently raised: 2
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GN/3 G/SPS/N/CZE/8 G/SPS/GEN/265 G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.1
Products covered: 0207 Meat and edible offal, of the poultry of heading 01.05, fresh, chilled or frozen.
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Animal health; Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Food safety; Human health; Risk assessment; Zoonoses
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 1996, the representative of the United States stated that in a number of markets, problems arose from discrimination between the standards for control of salmonella that were applied to domestic versus imported poultry products. He noted that the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Chile, El Salvador and Honduras applied so-called zero-tolerance standards for salmonella in imported poultry products. It was misleading to refer to such restrictions as zero-tolerance standards since none of these Member appeared to have eradication or surveillance systems in place to establish the non-existence of salmonella in their domestic products. The discriminatory treatment resulted in a serious market access barrier.

The representative of the Slovak Republic explained that the State Veterinary Administration did not apply zero-tolerance for salmonella in imported poultry meat. Paragraph 2 of the Veterinary Certificate for poultry meat (subject to Laws No. 87/1987 and 239/1991 LC (provisions on veterinary treatment) and Decree No. 118/1987 and 258/1994 LC (provisions covering veterinary protection of the state territory) require imported poultry meat "to be obtained from slaughter poultry originating from holdings in which there was no evidence of Salmonella entritidis or salmonella typhimurium and laboratory examination for these salmonellae performed 14 days before slaughter was negative". This condition did not stipulate a zero-tolerance requirement for salmonella in imported poultry meat, but sets an equivalent ante and post-mortem treatment of slaughter poultry, as was required for domestically produced poultry meat. The request for ante-mortem examination and the ban on imports of poultry meat originating from holdings which tested positive on salmonella, was a sound, nondiscriminatory sanitary policy, since it sought to prevent the dissemination of the disease within the country. The representative of the Slovak Republic reminded the Committee that since 1990, outbreaks of salmonella had increased. Scientific evidence showed that the disease was spread mainly through contaminated poultry products. He reported that the conditions established for the imports of poultry products applied equally to all Members, and to date concerns had not been expressed by any other trading partner.

The representative of the Czech Republic stated that his country's veterinary requirements for imports of poultry products complied with the provisions of the SPS Agreement. In establishing those requirements, the level of prevalence of specific diseases and the existence of eradication or control programmes in the country of origin were taken into account. The present regulations required negative results on salmonella tests in poultry holdings and slaughterhouses. Discussions were held with experts from the United States but no assurances were received that such requirements would be met in the United States. Some issues still needed clarification; for example, the testing and monitoring of salmonella for heat treated products in the United States, including (a)the frequency of testing in poultry holdings and flocks and poultry slaughterhouses; and (b) how feedback was provided to the veterinary inspectors in slaughterhouses regarding the epizoological situation in the field. The relevant Czech regulation required that "meat must come from animals kept in the holding or flock, in a perimeter of at least 30 km in which: during 12 months prior to export, no case of fowl plague has been reported; and during 3 month prior to export no case of Newcastle disease has been reported". This requirement by the Czech Republic was less stringent than the conditions imposed by the European Communities or some Scandinavian countries on poultry products, and had already been met by Thailand, China, Brazil and some European countries. The representative of the Czech Republic suggested that bilateral consultations between veterinary experts from both sides was the most effective way to reach an agreement on this issue.

The representatives of Honduras and El Salvador indicated that they would inform their authorities of the statement made by the United States, and provide a response at a later date.

The representative of Chile observed that bilateral consultations on salmonella had started in 1992. Chile pursued a long term policy objective in SPS-related matters, in order to maintain an adequate level of protection against the pests and diseases which were thought to substantially affect trade. Chile's trade policies, at the same time, always strived to eliminate restrictive measures that were unsupported by science, including in the poultry sector.

Further information on the sanitary requirements applying to the poultry sector in Chile was provided in G/SPS/GN/3. The Chilean delegate indicated that the concern expressed by the United States was probably due to a misunderstanding of those sanitary requirements. Countries exporting raw poultry meat to Chile (e.g. Denmark) were required to perform a test to determine the level of salmonella. The test result was checked against the level of prevalence of the disease in the exporting country, which is a key input to the risk assessment procedure adopted by Chile. Chile was aware that the United States had difficulties complying with this requirement given the high level of prevalence of salmonella domestically. On 6 June 1996, President Clinton acknowledged the importance of this domestic problem and launched a high priority program to reduce the prevalence of salmonella. The US Secretary of Agriculture recommended that the hazard analysis critical point (HACCP) approach be systematically applied in poultry slaughterhouses. Given the situation in the United States, the Chilean government was prepared to show a certain flexibility and would be prepared to consider imports of irradiated poultry meat from the United States as a possible alternative.

The representative of Japan welcomed the comment made by the United States that it was not their intention to address the technical aspects of specific issues in detail during Committee meetings. The representatives of Canada and Argentina recalled the spirit in which the United States had made their presentation, noting that lessons could be learned from specific examples, and suggesting that Members should contribute with more issues to broaden the discussions. Canada was particularly interested in a further discussion of national treatment, and on what should be considered as a reasonable period of time for the completion of a risk assessment. During the Uruguay Round negotiations, it had not been possible to agree on an appropriate time frame because of the relative complexity of risk assessment. However, it had been agreed that the issue should be further pursued.

All Members concerned noted that the discussion of specific issues could promote the correct implementation of the SPS Agreement. In order to facilitate the work of the Committee, Members wishing to raise points under this agenda item were requested to inform other Members concerned, as well as the Secretariat, at the latest 11 days before the meeting date.

In March 1997, the representative of the United States reiterated their concern regarding measures adopted by a number of their trading partners, among them Chile and the Czech Republic, on the control of salmonella. In particular, Chile had not substantiated their claim that salmonella was less prevalent in domestic poultry stocks compared to the imported product, and the Czech Republic continued to maintain a zero-tolerance policy on imported poultry. Furthermore, it was the understanding of the United States that the Central American Common Market had agreed to harmonize sanitary requirements for poultry meat imports. The United States was interested in knowing when such legislation would be drafted and implemented.

The representative of Chile recalled the document submitted at the previous meeting of the Committee on the same subject (G/SPS/GN/3). He noted that with regard to imports of poultry meat, sampling methods were used. The practice was not discriminatory as it applied to all suppliers and had, for instance, allowed Denmark to export poultry meat to Chile. With regard to the health of domestic poultry stocks (national treatment), the competent authorities in Chile maintained a rigorous epidemiological monitoring system with particular focus on salmonella. This policy had been further strengthened in applying the HACCP risk analysis method for poultry production. These health standards had enabled Chilean poultry to gain access to particularly difficult markets such as the European Communities, Japan and Hong Kong. Chile remained open to further discussions with the United States.

In July 2001, the representative of the United States introduced an update to the Secretariat document on specific trade concerns (G/SPS/GEN/204/Rev.1). The United States had examined the issues it had raised in the Committee to determine whether the issues had been resolved. This exercise had shown that the SPS Committee was a useful forum to address and resolve trade issues. The US document presented the US view on the status of the relevant issues, and the United States was prepared to discuss other Members' views on this status.