Global Programs

After years of work by NCBA CLUSA’s USDA-funded SAFE project, the Dominican Republic is eligible to export beef products


Food safety experts from Texas A&M University conduct a mock audit of a beef processing facility. [photos: SAFE project]
Following a review of the Dominican Republic’s documented inspection system for raw and intact beef products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has reinstated equivalence with U.S. food safety standards for the export of beef products to the U.S. market of Puerto Rico.

The milestone comes thanks to bilateral cooperation from NCBA CLUSA’s USDA Food for Progress-funded Safe Agriculture/Food Export (SAFE) project in the Dominican Republic, known locally as Progana.

Since October 2015, the SAFE project and one of its consortium partners, the University of Texas A&M’s Borlaug Institute, has provided technical and financial assistance to the Dominican Republic’s Beef Food Safety Inspection System, helping stakeholders make the necessary investments to comply with FSIS and the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)’s food safety standards and regulations.

The results of these investments were verified by FSIS during an in-country audit from September 13-23, 2021 and certified as equivalent on April 29, 2022. This milestone recognizes the hard work and investments made by the Dominican Republic, its food safety inspection system, meat processing facilities, and thousands of cattle ranchers—all of which are expected to create a positive feedback loop that will continue strengthening the Dominican cattle industry for years to come.

This milestone recognizes the hard work and investments made by the Dominican Republic, its food safety inspection system, meat processing facilities and cattle ranchers.

SAFE started by conducting an analysis of previous USDA/FSIS evaluations of the country’s Beef Inspection System (BIS) and of the overall beef and dairy value chains. In 2017, SAFE joined the “Equivalence Round Table” led by the Dominican Association for Landowners and Farmers (ADHA). This roundtable comprised pubic and private sector stakeholders, including beef producers, the Dominican Association of Processing Plants (ADM), the country’s three largest processing plants (Mercarne, Agrocarne and Suplidora A&B), and other relevant agencies. The project facilitated the development and improvement of 11 policies, regulations and procedures necessary to achieve equivalence and helped develop the political support for a risk-based system.

SAFE also engaged producer groups such as Asociación Nacional de Productores de Ganado de Carne (ASOCARNE) and local slaughterhouse suppliers. The project conducted comprehensive trainings across all components of the Beef Inspection System (BIS), including FSIS requirements, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), risk management, animal welfare, Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Best Manufacturing Practices (BMPs), Sanitary Performance Standards (SPS), Sanitation Standard Operational Procedures (SSOP), Sanitary Dressing Procedures (SDP), and many other food safety and sanitation topics.

Letters sent to the General Directorate of Medicine, Food and Sanitary Products (Digemaps) of the Ministry of Public Health (MSP) and Dr. Jaime Rafael Santoni Hernández, manager of the meat unit, that review the Self-Report Tool (SRT) of the Dominican Republic, responses and documentation, along with the in-country audit, support that the Dominican Republic’s intact raw beef product inspection system is equivalent.

“Such a great achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment, energy, and passion of Dr. Jaime Santoni and DIGEMAPS’s team of inspectors, which serves as the CCA of the whole Equivalence Process, and the authorities of the Dominican Government”, said Cesáreo Guillermo, the SAFE project chief of party.

“We are grateful to the Progana project for its continuous support in the process of reinstating equivalence for raw beef exports to the U.S.,” Dr. Santoni Hernández said, adding that the project’s support included technical assistance for continuous training on USDA FSIS regulatory requirements and compliance; support to the official teams and establishments through pre-audits for compliance with FSIS requirements; and technical support to strengthen the capacities of audit staff for laboratory evaluations authorized by the Central Competent Authority (CCA). “Progana has been a very important pillar for the Dominican Meat Inspection System, in order to obtain this long-awaited goal.”

“Progana has been a very important pillar for the Dominican Meat Inspection System, in order to obtain this long-awaited goal.” – Dr. Jaime Rafael Santoni Hernández

Michelle Catlin, International Coordination Executive for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), said that FSIS will provide additional information on the country’s new eligibility, along with next steps that include import requirements, labeling requirements, individual health measures, and the Self-Report Tool (SRT).

USDA specifies that the Dominican Republic may only export products from certified establishments on this list. In addition, Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires that each shipment of meat (beef) products imported into the United States must have a foreign inspection certificate issued by a Digemaps/Department of Food official.

“The foreign inspection certificate must accompany each shipment; be presented to import inspection personnel at the official FSIS import inspection establishment; be written in English; and bear the official seal of the government of the Dominican Republic responsible for the inspection of meat (beef) products, as well as the name, position and signature of the official authorized to issue inspection certificates,” the letter states.

Likewise, the letter clarifies that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) determines the eligibility of animal products to enter the United States based on the sanitary situation of the exporting countries.

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