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FSIS compliance investigators’ responsibilities under the law


From USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the United States Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and processed egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. To meet its vital mission of keeping regulated products safe from production to the consumer’s table, FSIS has inspectors in federally regulated meat, poultry, and egg processing plants and investigators in commerce.

FSIS works closely with the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), as well as other Federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Protective Services FPS), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). FSIS also works closely with state and local agriculture, health, and law enforcement agencies.

FSIS activities are conducted under the authority of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), the Poultry Inspection Act (PPIA), and the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA). The acts provide authority for the effective regulation of meat, poultry, and processed egg products.

Office of Investigation, Enforcement, and Audit
The Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA) is the program area within FSIS that conducts surveillance and investigative activities at businesses that handle meat, poultry and egg products for commerce; investigation of foodborne illness outbreaks; response to natural disaster and intentional contamination events; enforcement of FSIS criminal, civil and administrative sanctions and authorities; verification that state meat and poultry programs are conducted in a manner at least equal to the federal program; and verification that meat, poultry and egg products imported into the United States are produced under equivalent standards. OIEA is also responsible for defending the agency before third parties concerning complaints of discrimination, appeals of adverse actions, and unfair labor practice charges.

Compliance and Investigations Division
The Compliance and Investigations Division (CID) within OIEA is responsible for monitoring meat, poultry, and egg products in commerce to ensure they are from approved sources, properly labeled, wholesome, and fit for human consumption. Some examples of regulated entities include transporters, processors, distributors, retailers, renderers, brokers, abattoirs, restaurants, food banks, warehouses, and institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools.

CID investigates and documents alleged violations of the FMIA, PPIA and EPIA to support enforcement actions in the criminal, civil and administrative arenas. CID Investigators are authorized to detain meat, poultry, and egg products when there is reason to believe those products may be adulterated, misbranded or otherwise in violation of statutory or regulatory requirements to prevent their further movement in commerce.

CID roles and responsibilities
SISCID implements a nationwide compliance and investigations program in support of the FSIS public health mission. Investigations are often a collaborative effort conducted by individuals or teams across the United States. To protect the nation’s food supply, CID investigators carry out critical activities, including:

  • Conducting surveillance of in-commerce facilities focused on food safety, food defense, court ordered verification, and other consumer protection activities
  • Investigating alleged violations of law to support criminal, civil, and administrative actions, including prosecutions
  • Sampling products for pathogens, species, economic adulteration, and foreign ingredients
  • Educating businesses and officials about food safety and food defense
  • Serving as a liaison to other federal, state, and local public health agencies and law enforcement officials

Investigators also play a crucial role in FSIS’ homeland security activities, including detecting, preventing, and responding to food tampering incidents, food smuggling, natural disasters, and other threats to the food supply.

CID has a substantial role in responding to foodborne illness outbreaks by performing investigations in cooperation with other federal, state, and local public health partners. Investigators conduct traceback/traceforward activities to identify the vehicles of contamination pertaining to foodborne illness outbreaks and to determine the location of implicated products. These activities may result in recalls, detentions and/or seizures which provide for the removal of adulterated products from commerce to protect public health and prevent further illnesses.

CID supports a range of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement functions such as:

  • Referrals to the USDA Office of General Counsel and/or OIG for prosecution, injunction, or product seizure actions by DOJ.
  • Verification of compliance with settlement agreements and other case outcomes on behalf of FSIS and assists with coordination of legal actions.

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