FAQs – USDA Process Verified Program

What is the USDA Process Verified Program?

The USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) provides a voluntary service where a company sets their own standard, then applies to the PVP to have their standard checked by USDA for compliance.  Company standards checked by USDA can vary by industry and product type, and may also include standards requested by a customer or consumer.  PVP companies can be a food manufacturer or a service provider, who confirm that live animals meet requirements set by other third-parties (e.g., importing countries, industry, or customer defined requirements) on farms or ranches. 

What is a PVP Service Provider?

PVP Service Providers are other audit firms approved by USDA that verify that live animals meet various requirements and standards.  In some cases, these standards are set by a company that ultimately wishes to market meat produced from those livestock; or, in some cases, these PVP Service Providers are verifying requirements that facilitate export programs.  PVP Service Providers do not perform official PVP audits as AMS auditors do, but can be utilized to perform on-farm verification to ensure the company is meeting its standards.  Consequently, farms that PVP Service Providers audit are not able to use the PVP shield or make PVP label claims because the scope of the audit is on live animals and does not extend to animal harvesting or processing.  

How does a company receive PVP approval?

To get an approved PVP, a company must have a documented system in place that describes their standard and how they intend to implement their standard.  Each company must submit a manual that supports and describes the company’s standards, procedures, records, policies, and objectives.  AMS auditors then conduct a desk audit followed by an on-site audit to ensure all program requirements are accounted for and documented in the company’s manual. Once approved, the company’s name and information pertaining to their PVP is listed on the USDA web site for viewing by the public.

What is the on-site audit?

The on-site audit can last anywhere from a day to a week depending on the number and scope of standards that the company has put in place coupled with the size and complexity of the operation. During the PVP on-site audit of the company’s implemented standard, AMS auditors will review company records, interview employees, watch company practices, and confirm that they are following their own procedures.

What is the difference between the PVP and the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service label approval?

All label claims for meat, poultry, or egg products  – regardless of whether associated with a PVP or not – must be reviewed and approved by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure these labels are truthful and not misleading.  

Separately, some companies do market the PVP shield on marketing materials, such as a product label, if they have an approved program with AMS.  AMS reviews those materials to ensure the USDA PVP shield is used correctly, and that the company’s PVP claims associated with their approved Program are accurate. AMS and FSIS work closely together to ensure coordination for these programs where there is an overlap.

How long does the PVP approval last?

For new programs, approval lasts for one year, but a surveillance audit is conducted within six months of the initial on-site audit. After the first year, on-site audits are conducted annually.

What is the cost for an audit?

Since the audit programs are voluntary, fee-for-service, AMS must recover all costs associated with providing the service. Currently, AMS charges $165 per hour.  In addition to the hourly charge, other costs (e.g., per diem, transportation) associated with providing audit services are charged directly to the applicant.  No appropriated funds are used to carry out this service.