|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
The HACCP-based inspection models project is designed to test whether new government slaughter inspection procedures, applied in conjunction with revised plant HACCP controls and new plant process controls, can improve food safety and increase consumer protection. Only meat and poultry plants that slaughter generally young, healthy, uniform animals are allowed to participate in the project.
HACCP alone does not fully accomplish these objectives because even under HACCP, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) continues to use its slaughter inspection workforce in traditional ways where inspectors identify defects and direct plant employees to remove them, define corrective actions to prevent problems, and solve production control problems. This contrasts with how FSIS inspection personnel now function with respect to HACCP in other areas of the plant, where plants assume their proper responsibility for process control, and FSIS verifies that they are meeting regulatory requirements.
As part of the project, FSIS also will redeploy some inspectors currently assigned within plants to sample and verify the safety and wholesomeness of meat and poultry in the storage, transportation, and retail sectors of the food production chain (referred to as "in-distribution.").
This paper provides an update on activities that have occurred in recent months.
On May 19, 1999, FSIS and the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, which represents inspectors, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU addresses conditions under which the models testing phase of the project will be conducted. There are several key provisions:
The parties agreed that there would be 25 participating plants from which data would be collected to initiate rulemaking--15 for young chickens, 5 for turkeys, and 5 for market hogs. In order to ensure that these numbers are achieved, up to 30 plants could be identified as participants. At present, FSIS has a sufficient number of young chicken plants; thus, additional volunteers are being placed on a waiting list, in the order in which they are accepted, in case they are needed to supply data for the rulemaking.
The parties agreed to the events that would mark the beginning and ending of the models testing phase. The models testing phase begins when the establishment begins to make changes in its activities and FSIS responds to those changes with new inspection procedures. The models testing phase will end when a final rule is published or when a participating plant fails to meet performance standards drawn from baseline data, whichever comes first.
The parties agreed to initial staffing levels and frequencies with which procedures will be performed. Experience within the plants during the models testing phase will be the basis for any changes.
The parties agreed to promotions for in-plant inspectors who will be performing the new oversight and verification inspection procedures, and for in-plant inspectors who will be team coordinators.
In-plant inspectors participating in the models pilot phase will be trained in HACCP, oversight and verification inspection procedures, and using portable computers (referred to as FAIM "Lite"). Training sessions will begin in August 1999, and FSIS estimates that for the first nine plants, 125 inspectors will need to be trained.
The In-Distribution pilot will run on a parallel track in the geographic locations near the first group of participating plants.
At the December 2, 1998, public meeting on the HACCP-based inspection models project, a review of the statistical design of the protocol for the in-plant component of the project was requested. FSIS sought, and has received, a statistical peer review from Dr. Phillip Kott, Chief Research Statistician for the Research Division of USDAs National Agricultural Statistics Service. Copies can be obtained by faxing requests to Barbara O'Brien, Constituent Affairs Office, at (202) 720-5704.
FSIS has received from Research Triangle Institute (RTI), the private consulting firm that is collecting data for FSIS, a completed report on baseline data in four of the first five plants. An earlier report was made available in December 1998. Further baseline data collection is occurring in additional participating plants on a rotating basis so that as certain plants complete baseline testing, new plants are added. As data are collected, they are added to existing data so that national performance standards can be established for plants slaughtering each of the market classes included in the project. The performance standards will be used to measure the effectiveness of new plant activities and inspection procedures. To obtain a copy of the RTI report, fax a request to Barbara O'Brien, Constituent Affairs Office, (202) 720-5704.
Although not a requirement for participation in the project, a number of volunteer plants have chosen to train their employees for their new responsibilities by enrolling them in courses provided by the FSIS Training Center at College Station, Texas. This training is paid for by the participating plant.
From discussions with volunteer plants participating in the project, FSIS believes that plants will be moving into the models testing pilot phase at various times over the next six months. Some will begin to initiate changes as early as September or October 1999, while others may not be ready until late 1999 or early 2000. No matter when a plant begins, it will have to carry out the following activities:
Modify its HACCP plan to include at least one critical control point (CCP) addressing food safety diseases and conditions;
Develop a process control plan to address other consumer protection activities that are not food safety related;
Consult with FSIS about these plans and determine when the plant will initiate changes so that FSIS can determine how to modify its inspection procedures accordingly;
Consult with FSIS about when plant activities and Agency inspection procedures have reached a steady state of performance in which both parties have confidence in order to agree on time frames for data collection.
Once these activities are completed, RTI will begin data collection, and performance by the plant will be evaluated for continuation or termination of the pilot phase. Based on performance by participating plants and in-plant inspection personnel, FSIS will proceed with appropriate rulemaking.
FSIS is concurrently developing in-distribution inspection models under which FSIS will redeploy some inspectors currently assigned within plants to verify the safety and wholesomeness of meat and poultry products after they leave the plant. As the pilot progresses, these inspectors will perform in-distribution as well as in-plant activities, thus testing the concept of more fully integrating the two segments of the farm-to-table chain. Four StatesPennsylvania, Minnesota, Virginia, and Alabamahave been selected as the first sites for the in-distribution model testing, and FSIS is in close contact with health and agriculture officials from these States to keep them informed and to solicit input. FSIS is in the process of selecting employees for these new in-distribution positions and expects to begin training this fall.
General inquiries on the models project:
FSIS Steering committee on the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project:
Media Inquiries: (202) 720-9113
Congressional Inquiries: (202) 720-3897
Constituent Inquiries: (202) 720-8594
Consumer Inquiries: Call USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555. In the Washington, DC, area, call (202) 720-3333. The TTY number is 1-800-256-7072.
FSIS Web site: http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
For Further Information Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-3897
Fax: (202) 720-5704
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