|Improving Food Safety while Reducing Costs|
USDA Proposes New Poultry Inspection System
In a move designed to save money for businesses and taxpayers while improving food safety, a federal agency is proposing to alter young chicken and turkey slaughter inspection by focusing on areas of the poultry production system posing the greatest risk to food safety.
According to the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the shift will save taxpayers more than $90 million over three years and lower production costs at least $256.6 million annually.
"The new inspection system will reduce the risk of food-borne illness by focusing FSIS inspection activities on those tasks advancing our core mission of food safety," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "By revising current procedures and removing outdated regulatory requirements that do not help combat food-borne illness, the result will be a more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars."
The USDA noted some FSIS employees now perform several activities unrelated to food safety like identifying visual defects like bruising while others conduct the critical inspection work.
Under the proposed plan, all FSIS inspection activities will focus on critical food-safety tasks to ensure agency resources are tied directly to protecting public health and reducing food-borne illnesses.
Also, some outdated regulatory requirements will be removed and replaced with more flexible and effective testing and process control requirements, the USDA said. Finally, all poultry establishments will now be required to provide data supporting their procedures preventing contamination in the production process.
As mandated by law, carcass-by-carcass inspection will continue, but the new rules will allow FSIS personnel to conduct their work more efficiently. Agency efforts will focus on more effective food-safety measures because data collected in recent years suggest offline inspection activities are more effective in improving food safety.
Inspection work done off the evisceration line includes pathogen sampling and verifying establishments are maintaining sanitary conditions and controlling food-safety hazards at critical points in the production process.
Dr. Al Yancy, vice president of food safety and production with the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, is happy to see federal officials are supporting the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP)-based inspection program used by the industry since the late 1990s.
"The new proposals appear to expand on that model," he noted.
Contacted soon after the new rule proposals were posted, Yancy had not had time to read and analyze the entire 49-page rule proposal document.
"As the old saying goes, ‘The devil is in the details.’ So it’s critical we know and fully understand what will be required and determine if we can agree with the proposals or if there is something disconcerting in them."
The proposal was published in the Federal Register Jan. 27 and interested parties have until the end of the day April 26 to submit comments. Comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, OPPD, RIMD, Docket Clearance Unit, Patriots Plaza III, Room 8-164, 355 E. Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20024-3221. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the agency name and docket number assigned in the published Federal Register notice – FSIS 2011-0012-0001.
The new inspection proposal is the latest of several new measures FSIS has announced over the past two years designed to safeguard the food supply, prevent food-borne illness and improve consumer knowledge about the food they eat.