[Federal Register: July 31, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 146)]
[Notices]               
[Page 43095-43096]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr31jy06-24]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. FSIS-2006-0017]

 
Technical Service Center Operations

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice, request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reviewing the 
organization, operations, and services provided by its Technical 
Service Center (TSC) in Omaha, Nebraska, with the intent of improving 
TSC programs that provide technical advice, guidance, and information 
to FSIS personnel, the regulated industry, and the general public. FSIS 
is particularly interested in improving TSC programs that assist small 
businesses. FSIS seeks comment from the public as part of this effort 
to improve TSC operations.

DATES: Comments on this notice must be received on or before August 30, 
2006.

ADDRESSES: FSIS invites interested persons to submit comments on this 
notice. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
    Federal eRulemaking Portal: This Web site provides the ability to 
type short comments directly into the comment field on this web page or 
attach a file for lengthier comments. Go to http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.regulations.gov 

and, in the ``Search for Open Regulations'' box, select ``Food Safety 
and Inspection Service'' from the agency drop-down menu, then click on 
``Submit.'' In the Docket ID column, select the FDMS Docket Number 
FSIS-2006-0017 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting 
and related materials available electronically. After the close of the 
comment period, the docket can be viewed using the ``Advanced Search'' 
function in Regulations.gov.
    Mail, including floppy disks or CD-ROMs, and hand- or courier-
delivered items: Send to Program Evaluation and Improvement Staff, Food 
Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 
3833 South Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 
20250-3700.
    Electronic mail: fsis.regulationscomments@fsis.usda.gov.
    All submissions received must include the Agency name and docket 
number FSIS-2006-0017.
    All comments submitted in response to this notice will be posted to 
the regulations.gov Web site and on the Agency's Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/2006_Notices_Index/index.asp.
 The comments also will be available for public inspection in 

the FSIS Docket Room at the address listed above between 8:30 a.m. and 
4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact Matthew Michael, Director, Program 
Evaluation and Improvement Staff, Office of Program Evaluation, 
Enforcement & Review, FSIS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 3833 
South Building, 14th and Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20250-
3700; telephone (202) 720-6735; fax (202) 690-1030; e-mail: 
matthew.michael@fsis.usda.gov.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    In 1997, FSIS established the TSC to serve as a vital component in 
implementing the Agency's science-based inspection system. As part of 
the 1996 FSIS reorganization, the TSC was established to provide 
frontline inspectors and supervisors consistent technical guidance and 
expertise on the interpretation, enforcement, and application of 
regulations, policies, and systems. FSIS' intent was to concentrate in 
one location the technical expertise previously located in numerous 
headquarters and field offices in order to provide comprehensive and 
consistent technical advice quickly during the implementation of this 
initiative. The center's creation was critical to the successful 
implementation of the 1996 Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point 
(HACCP) systems regulation, which established new requirements for the 
regulated industry and changed many of the tasks carried out by 
inspectors.
    In November 2004, FSIS asked the National Advisory Committee on 
Meat and Poultry Inspection to provide input on how well the TSC is 
functioning, and what the center should be doing in light of the fact 
that HACCP implementation was complete. In its report to FSIS, NACMPI 
fully supported the continuation of the center to provide technical 
assistance to the Agency and the industry and made a number of 
suggestions to improve the center's effectiveness, including improving 
consistency of answers, compiling helpful resources for the industry, 
and expanding formal correlation between FSIS and industry.
    The TSC continues to assist the FSIS workforce, plant owners and 
operators, state and foreign government officials, industry 
representatives, and others by:
     Providing technical advice, guidance, and information 
related to the interpretation, application, implementation and 
enforcement of regulations, policies and systems concerning meat and 
poultry processing, slaughter, imports and egg products inspection 
activities;
     Contributing to the development of Agency policy on 
various matters, particularly issues involving inspection at slaughter 
and processing;
     Correlating inspection procedures and requirements with 
FSIS' Office of Field Operations personnel and industry;

[[Page 43096]]

     Guiding the implementation of new and modified inspection 
programs and procedures;
     Interacting with other program areas to assure information 
exchange and uniformity of regulatory issues within the Agency;
     Working with the FSIS Center for Learning to develop and 
deliver training;
     Analyzing data in major Agency databases for recurring and 
specific project requirements; and
     Identifying emerging data analysis and management needs, 
including developing, piloting, implementing, and maintaining databases 
and reporting systems, and raising policy and program issues based on 
that analysis.
    Significantly, the TSC does not provide a forum for resolving 
disputes between inspection personnel and plant management, nor does it 
rule on appeals. This is a function of the chain of command and the 
appeals process is described in 9 CFR 306.5. The role of the TSC is to 
assist decision making by providing all parties with the standards and 
other technical information needed to understand, implement, apply, and 
enforce regulatory requirements. Two TSC staffs, both within the FSIS 
Office of Policy, Program & Employee Development, provide the services 
described above. The Technical Assistance/Correlation Staff (TAC) 
provides technical expertise, guidance and correlation. The Program 
Analysis Staff (PAS) conducts data analysis and special studies 
concerning Agency program operations.
    FSIS is now seeking broader input on the organization, operations, 
and services provided by the TSC, with the intent of improving TSC 
programs. As part of a comprehensive evaluation of TSC operations and 
services, the Agency is seeking comments from the public and especially 
from small businesses. Feedback from small businesses is being 
requested specifically as a result of the Agency's initiative to 
improve its outreach to small and very small plants to further improve 
their food safety programs.

Questions

    All relevant comments are welcome, but FSIS specifically seeks 
responses from the regulated industry to the following questions:
     In what way has the availability of TSC services helped 
you with your operations?
     When you have contacted the TSC, has the response been 
prompt, clear, thorough, and courteous?
     Is the technical guidance provided by the TSC consistent 
with regulations and policy as written? Is the technical guidance 
consistent with guidance given by FSIS inspection program personnel?
     Have you used the TSC website? If so, has it been useful?
     If you have contacted the TSC multiple times regarding the 
same topic, has the guidance been consistent over time?
     How could the TSC improve its services?
     Have you had difficulty in reaching the TSC staff?
     What recommendations do you have for TSC in communicating 
information to you?
     What specifically could the TSC do to improve its services 
to small businesses?

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to ensure that the 
public and in particular minorities, women, and persons with 
disabilities, are aware of this notice, FSIS will announce it on-line 
through the FSIS web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations/2006_Notices_Index/index.asp
.

    FSIS also will make copies of this Federal Register publication 
available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide 
information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal 
Register notices, FSIS public meetings, recalls, and other types of 
information that could affect or would be of interest to our 
constituents and stakeholders. The update is communicated via Listserv, 
a free e-mail subscription service consisting of industry, trade, and 
farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, 
scientific professionals, and other individuals who have requested to 
be included. The update also is available on the FSIS web page. Through 
Listserv and the web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a 
much broader, more diverse audience.
    In addition, FSIS offers an email subscription service which 
provides automatic and customized access to selected food safety news 
and information. This service is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_and_events/email_subscription/
 Options range from recalls to 

export information to regulations, directives and notices. Customers 
can add or delete subscriptions themselves and have the option to 
password protect their account.

    Done at Washington, DC, on July 26, 2006.
Barbara J. Masters,
D.V.M. Administrator.
 [FR Doc. E6-12217 Filed 7-28-06; 8:45 am]

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