Annex O: Visual Import Inspection Procedures

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1. Introduction

All imported meat and meat products, other than United States skip lots, must be presented by the importer of record (name appearing on the Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC)) in its imported condition to an inspector. The inspection must be performed at an establishment registered for the import inspection. Refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reference list of registered establishments.

Once a meat or meat product shipment receives the CFIA release from the National Import Service Centre (NISC) and an Import Inspection Report (IIR) is issued, no change of inspection facility will be allowed. The inspection must be performed at the registered establishment listed on the Multi-Commodity Activities Program (MCAP) IIR. If a shipment is presented and the establishment is different than the one identified on the IIR, the shipment should not be accepted and the load rerouted to the import establishment listed on the IIR as the inspection establishment.

All shipments originating from countries other than the United States and all United States shipments designated for full inspection must be subjected to the visual inspection. A visual inspection is a visual scan of the entire lot assigned for re-inspection to assess the shipping containers for evidence of damaged or stained cartons, to detect objectionable odours, to verify outer labels, and to establish a correlation with the OMIC issued by the competent authorities of the product's country of origin. It is the responsibility of the operator of the registered establishment to receive the imported meat product into an area which respects the safe handling storage instructions indicated on the shipping container. The operator shall record the temperature of perishable imported meat products upon arrival. For hanging carcasses, the facility shall have rails to properly handle the imported product so as to maintain its original condition and integrity.

Inspectors responsible for inspection establishments where imported meat products are stored and which have not yet been inspected must maintain tight control over such product until inspection is completed. It is recommended that an imported meat product register/log book be maintained which would record the shipments received, shipments released and those pending inspection.

1.1 Import Inspection Notification

Once an import document has been validated at the NISC, the Import Control and Tracking System (ICTS) generates an IIR. The NISC official is required to fax a copy of the IIR to the inspector responsible for the establishment where the import inspection is to be performed. In addition, the import inspectors who have access to ICTS should retrieve the import inspection assignment for the establishment on a daily basis. The inspector is required to take action when the expected shipment does not arrive at the predetermined establishment within reasonable time.

When a lot of imported meat arrives without previous notification in a registered establishment or an import inspection facility, the inspector should immediately verify whether this lot has already been presented for import inspection and passed. The ICTS should be searched by the use of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) export stamp number or the shipping mark. The status of the lots already on the ICTS must be determined. Where the status indicates "processing complete/traitement terminé", the shipment has been inspected and released. Where the status indicates "awaiting inspection/en attente d' inspection", the inspector must hold the shipment.

1.2 Preparation for the Import Inspection

Before the inspector conducts an import inspection the following tools should be considered and be prepared:

  • import inspection log book or equivalent;
  • meat import worksheet;
  • meat import inspection checklist;
  • conditions of Importation of Meat and Meat Products (Annex A) to verify that required certification statements are present on the OMIC;
  • Annex M and Annex M-1 to determine the necessary laboratory sampling; and
  • hand tools available (knife, ruler).

The inspector should ensure that the equipment necessary to perform meat import inspection tasks are always available in the establishment, and that the establishment complies with the facility and sanitation requirements applicable to establishments registered for inspection of imported meat products.

1.3 Delegation of Certain Import Inspection Responsibilities to the Operator of a Registered Establishment

In import inspection establishments where CFIA inspectors are not continuously present, certain inspection activities may be delegated to the operator to avoid delays in the inspection process. Examples of such activities are: removal of official seals, receiving imported shipments (including those with missing documents), selection of sample units, sorting of refused shipments, stamping refused entry, etc.

The inspector may authorize such inspection activities based on a written company program that satisfies the inspector that the activities shall be carried out as prescribed.

The written program should include the following:

  • detailed description of all steps of the activity;
  • list of responsible employees;
  • records to be kept; and
  • procedure which must be signed by the operator.

The inspector must monitor this program and when he/she identifies that the procedures are not being followed, removal of the privilege must be considered.

2. Visual Inspection Procedures

2.1 Documentation Review

Before proceeding with an inspection, the Inspector shall have in his possession:

  1. the original Official Meat Inspection Certificate (OMIC) of the country of origin, or a copy of a verified Guaranteed Replacement Certificate;
  2. the Import Inspection Report (IIR);
  3. the copy of an Animal Health Terrestrial Division (AHTD) import permit and other official documents when deemed necessary (refer to Annex A for additional certification requirements);
  4. the United States Customs invoice or bill of lading for import shipments which have been transloaded in the United States (refer to Annex L of this chapter); and
  5. a poultry grading certificate, if required.

2.1.1 Missing Documents

If the above documents are not available at the time of unloading, the meat or meat products may be received by the facility, placed under detention and not be inspected until the inspector has received the required documents. If the OMIC is lost, the importer may offer to obtain a replacement certificate for the shipment. Refer to Annex C - Procedures for the Use of Official Meat Inspection Certificates.

The IIR should be accessed in the ICTS, using the OMIC number, the Import Control Number, or the USDA export stamp number as available (refer to Annex H-1, available for CFIA personnel use only). If the IIR cannot be located in the ICTS, the shipment will be placed under detention and the Area Import Coordinator will be contacted.

2.1.2 Certificate Review

An examination is to be conducted by the inspector to determine the acceptability of the documents prior to product shipping container inspection. The foreign OMIC must be complete, accurate and legible to be acceptable. Refer to Annex C of this chapter. Verify the accuracy of the Animal Health statement if required. Refer to Annex A of this chapter.

2.1.3 Unacceptable Certificates

Unacceptable certificates are to be refused and their corresponding meat products are not to be inspected. Refer to Annex J of this chapter.

2.2 Shipment Inspection Procedures

2.2.1 Official Seal Verification

The following shipments must arrive at the inspection facility with the official seal intact:

  1. all shipments from all countries other than United States; and
  2. all United States shipments certified as unmarked (unstamped United States shipments must have either an official USDA seal or a company seal).

The seal numbers must match the numbers indicated on the OMIC. For use of Official Seals refer to Annex L. The official seals may be removed only by the Inspector or by an authorized company employee as per section 130.1 of the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 (MIR) and as described in section 1.3 of this annex.

2.2.2 Suitability of Transport Container and Incompatible Goods

A verification should be conducted on the transport container, as per Annex O-1 of this chapter, to assure conformity with the CFIA's requirements as per section 48 and 49 of the MIR. Maintenance of proper product temperature during transport must be verified. Any indication that the required temperature may have been compromised during the transport should trigger full inspection or shipment refusal, depending on the extent of damage.

In those instances where other products are in the same vehicle as meat products, a physical check must be made with regard to their suitability for common transport. Examples of incompatible products include: substances posted with a hazardous material label, highly aromatic substances or any product likely to harm the integrity/wholesomeness of a meat product or cleanliness of the shipping containers.

2.2.3 Acceptability of Staging

The visual inspection staging must satisfy these principles:

  1. The shipment must be unloaded in its entirety; the lots are to be separated to facilitate the verification of each lot size.
  2. The shipment must be displayed in such a manner that the inspector:
    1. can safely view the shipment as a whole and verify the count;
    2. has adequate space for sample selection, so that each unit has an equal chance of being selected as a sample;
    3. can examine for transportation damage; and
    4. can easily see the main panel of all shipping containers, to facilitate reading of the label's mandatory information and other mandatory marking.
  3. No shipping containers are to be opened at this time.

Double stacking of pallets should be discouraged. The inspector must be able to safely and easily view all cartons. If, in the inspector's opinion, the shipment is inaccessible due to the presence of other shipping containers, lift truck traffic or in the manner in which it is presented, the lot must be re-staged in such a manner that will permit the inspector the opportunity to safely circulate between the pallets of meat product.

2.2.4 Assessment of General Conditions of the Shipment

The inspector shall view the general condition of the shipment with regards to transport damage, defrosting or stained shipping containers, and temperature abuse. Shipping containers affected by transport damage or with evidence of temperature abuse to the extent that the meat product's wholesomeness may be compromised must be refused.

In cases where only some of the shipping containers show transport damage or temperature abuse, the probable cause should be investigated in order to determine if sorting could be considered, if requested by the importer. Refer to Annex J of this chapter.

2.2.5 Verify Correlation between Marking IIR and Certification

All markings and labelling on the shipping containers must be verified against the information on the OMIC and the IIR by:

  1. verifying the shipping mark number and stamp impression clarity (refer to Annex D and Annex J of this chapter);
  2. verifying product description including grading declarations, if required (refer to Annex E-1 of this chapter);
  3. verifying compliance with labelling requirements (Refer to Annex E of this chapter and Chapter 7); and
  4. verifying that products are marked, (fully marked, unmarked, unstamped) as certified and in compliance with requirements of the MIR section 44 and Annex I-2 of this chapter.

2.2.6 Count Verification

Inspectors will compare the count of cartons present in the lot with the number of cartons on the OMIC. The CFIA has concerns when there are more cartons presented than are certified as the extra cartons can not be identified and should be considered as not having been certified. Consequently, there is limited tolerance with respect to overages. Inspectors should refer to the table of overages in section 2.2.6.2 of this annex to determine lot acceptability. Lots over the tolerance level are to be refused and handled as per procedures for refused entries detailed in Annex J of this chapter.

2.2.6.1 Underage

Replacement certificates are not required for underaged. When the number of shipping units is less than the amount stated on the certificate, import inspectors shall perform the following procedures:

  1. The IIR shall be corrected by crossing out the incorrect count and net weight and entering the correct figures. Each correction shall be initialled by the inspector.
  2. If applicable, the number of sample units required to be selected for full inspection may need to be manually adjusted. Refer to Annex H-2 of this chapter (available for CFIA personnel use only); and
  3. Conduct the import inspection. The inspector shall report the correct count in the remarks section of the ICTS.
2.2.6.2 Overage

When the number of shipping units is more than the amount stated on the certificate, import inspectors shall perform the following procedures:

The lot is either accepted if within the tolerance and the inspection may follow or it is ineligible for import inspection based on the following table:

Lot Size
(Shipping Units)
Overages Allowed
(Shipping Units)
50 - under 0
51 - 100 1
101 - 200 2
201 - 400 4
401 - 600 6
601 - 1,200 12
1,201 - 2,000 20
2,001 - 5,000 50
5,001 - 10,000 100
10,001 - over 150

If the overage is within the limit stated in the table for the applicable lot size, import inspectors shall accept the certificate and conduct the inspection. Replacement certificates are not required for overages within the limit.

Inspectors will document the corrected count by:

  1. crossing out the incorrect count and net weight and entering the correct figures on the IIR;
  2. initialling each correction; and
  3. entering the corrected data entered the remarks section of the ICTS.

If the overage exceeds the allowable limit for the applicable lot size, the lot (including the overages) is ineligible for import inspection and the shipment shall be entered into the ICTS as refused.

Further actions may include:

  1. the importer may request a replacement certificate, listing the actual count and net weight;
  2. the import inspector shall detain the lot (including the overages) until a replacement certificate is obtained;
  3. when the replacement certificate is obtained, the importer shall submit the documentation to the NISC following normal entry procedures; and
  4. import inspection may proceed when the replacement certificate and new IIR are received by the inspector.

2.2.7 Labelling Verification

The inspector shall verify labelling requirements are met. Refer to Annex E of this chapter. A checklist is available in Annex E-4 (available for CFIA personnel use only).

2.2.8 Selecting Sample Units for Organoleptic Examination When Required

For imported lots which have been assigned full import inspection by the ICTS, sample units would be selected by the inspector at this stage of the cursory inspection. Refer to Annex P of this chapter.

2.3 Recording of Inspection Results

Inspection results are to be entered into the ICTS by the inspector, using the methods detailed in the Inspector's user Manual.

3. Reporting Import Inspection Report Inaccuracy

When inaccuracies in the weight, quantity, and the OMIC number are noted on the IIR, inspectors should refer to procedures in Annex H of this chapter (available for CFIA personnel use only).

4. Overriding Assigned Inspection Plans

In those instances where suspected or actual unsatisfactory conditions are found, regardless of the inspection plan identified on the IIR including "skip lot", a full organoleptic inspection of the affected imported lot must be considered.

The appropriate sampling plan, the quantity to be sampled for the type of imported meat product may be obtained from Annex P of this chapter. Random sampling numbers and the method of selecting the sample unit may be obtained from Annex H-2 of this chapter (available for CFIA personnel use only).

For shipping mark irregularities or lack of correlation between the meat product shipping containers and the OMIC, the shipment is to be detained pending the issuance of a replacement certificate or failing this, is to be returned to the country of origin.

For imported shipments originating from the United States which received a "skip lot" inspection assignment but reveal improper labelling, corrections must be completed in a registered establishment before the product can be distributed. Skip lot inspection shipments demonstrating transport damage or temperature abuse may be partially refused. Refer to Annex J of this chapter for procedures.

Inspectors should contact the NISC Supervisor or Area Meat Import Program Specialist if an imported shipment originating from countries other than the United States indicates a skip lot inspection assignment on the IIR. The ICTS has not been designed to allow skip lot inspection assignments to shipments originating from countries other than United States. The appearance of skip lot instructions on the IIR indicates a possibility that inaccurate information has been entered into ICTS or that ICTS malfunctioned.

5. Handling of Shipments

5.1 Shipments Found in Compliance

Shipments designated uniquely for visual inspection can be released to the importer. Consideration should be given to possible marking and end use related restrictions that may require further tracking.

Shipments designated for full inspection are to be subjected to further full import inspection procedures as described in Annex P of this chapter.

5.2 Non Compliant Shipments

Shipments designated for full inspection found to be non compliant on visual inspection should be subjected to further full import inspection procedures before the final disposition is rendered.

Refused shipments are to remain under detention pending removal from the country. Refused meat product handling procedures are referenced in Annex J of this chapter.

The importer may request that permission be granted to correct certain non compliances. For details refer to Annex J of this chapter.

The inspector will record all observations on an import inspection checklist.

The inspector shall advise the importer or operator of the inspection establishment of the inspection findings in a timely manner. A copy of the appropriately stamped IIR is to be provided as documentation of the inspection decision.

A copy of the stamped IIR should accompany all imported shipments from inspection establishments to registered establishments as evidence that the import requirements have been met.

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