|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
FSIS is developing new models for slaughter inspection to be used in pilot plants that are extending their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems to cover additional parts of their slaughter operations. Only plants that slaughter young, healthy, uniform animals are being accepted as volunteers for this project.
The HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project is designed to test whether new government slaughter inspection procedures, applied in conjunction with extended plant HACCP controls, can improve food safety and increase consumer protection. Implementing HACCP alone does not fully accomplish this objective because FSIS continues to use its slaughter inspection workforce in traditional ways. This means that, during the slaughter process, FSIS inspectors have assumed responsibility for identifying and removing defects, defining corrective actions to prevent problems, and solving production control problems. This is in direct contrast with how FSIS inspection personnel now function with respect to other plant process control systems--HACCP and Standard Operating Procedures for Sanitation. Here, plants assume their proper responsibilities for process control, and FSIS verifies that they are meeting regulatory requirements.
As part of the model development process, FSIS is further describing the proceduresoversight inspection and verification inspectionthat inspectors will perform in slaughter plants participating in the project. FSIS will test different staffing arrangements in order to determine the most effective means of carrying out its inspection responsibilities. All existing statutory responsibilities will be met under the new inspection procedures.
Success of the new slaughter inspection models will permit FSIS to better use its resources and focus more aggressively on improving food safety and addressing public health concerns such as microbial pathogens. For example, FSIS already has set pathogen reduction performance standards for Salmonella and intends to set standards for Campylobacter. FSIS will also be able to move forward more quickly on implementation of its farm-to-table strategy by redeploying inspection resources made available through the models to carry out activities in-distribution.
Baseline data collection has been completed in an initial group of volunteer plants that slaughter certain market classes of young, healthy, and uniform animals. These first five plants slaughter young poultry and market hogs. They are: Jennie-O Foods, Inc., Wilmar, MN, a turkey plant; Hatfield, Inc., Hatfield, PA, a swine plant; Rocco Farm Foods, Edinburg, VA, a poultry plant; Quality Pork Processors, Austin, MN, a swine plant; and Goldkist Inc., Guntersville, AL., a poultry plant. (Claxton Poultry Farms, Claxton, GA, a poultry plant, has deferred participation in the project until next year.) FSIS expects to expand the pilot project to involve more plants.
These plants will extend their HACCP plans to include food safety hazards that may occur beginning when live animals or birds enter the facility. In addition, the volunteer plants will design and implement process control plans that address other consumer protection matters, such as removing bruises and other quality defects. When volunteer plants take on these process control responsibilities, the FSIS inspection team will be able to implement and evaluate the new slaughter inspection procedures.
In the pilot plants, slaughter inspection will consist of two types of procedures: oversight inspection and verification inspection. Only government inspectors will perform these procedures, and all government inspectors in the plant will be trained and expected to perform both types of procedures. The number of inspectors needed to perform these inspection procedures will vary according to factors such as plant size and complexity of its operations. The inspector-in-charge (IIC)--a veterinarian or other professional with a scientific background--will determine how to allocate inspection resources in the plant.
Under oversight inspection, FSIS inspectors make expert and informed observations of the company's HACCP and process control systems and immediately communicate process variations to the inspector-in-charge (IIC). HACCP systems address food safety concerns, and process control systems address other consumer protection concerns. Every carcass will receive oversight inspection. Whenever the plant is slaughtering, oversight inspection will occur.
Unlike the current system, where slaughter inspectors are assigned to fixed points along the slaughter line, under the models, inspectors may be assigned to perform oversight inspection at any point in the slaughter process. Inspectors may perform oversight inspection at places where plant employees are monitoring critical control points, at points where critical equipment such as poultry eviscerators are operating, or at the location where live animals and birds are arriving at the plant. In addition to performing oversight inspection at varied locations, inspectors will rotate through oversight inspection assignments. Under the current system, individual inspectors often spend long periods of time at one location, looking at carcasses that are highly uniform. Under the models, the IIC will determine where oversight inspection will be conducted and will assign a large portion of oversight inspection resources to sanitary dressing operations--removing inedible portions and making sure the edible portions are suitable for human consumption.
Inspectors conducting oversight inspection will be equipped with modern technology to immediately report to the IIC any observations of process variation beyond normal variation at their assigned locations. Food production processes are expected to vary throughout the day, and process control systems are designed to define normal variation and respond to it. At the time an oversight inspector observes a variation, he or she may not know if, down the line, the system catches and responds suitably to that variation. For example, the eviscerating equipment in a poultry plant may not be perfectly aligned for the size birds that have arrived that morning--as a result, an unusual portion of carcasses may be contaminated. The oversight inspector will immediately communicate this information to the IIC, who will decide how to respond.
Verification is the other type of slaughter inspection under the new system. It consists of inspectors taking samples of products and plant records and carefully examining them. In examining these samples, verification inspectors will use a variety of scientific and technical methods to make sure that regulatory requirements have been met by the plant's control systems.
The frequency with which verification inspections will be conducted will be driven by two factors. There will be a routine or steady-state frequency designed to confirm successful performance. If succesful, eventually this frequency will be incorporated into the agency's Performance Based Inspection System (PBIS)--the automated system through which inspection assignments are communicated and results reported. In addition, the IIC may choose to assign extra verification inspection procedures in response to oversight inspection findings reported to him or her. This strategic assignment of extra verification inspections will enhance the capacity of the regulatory system to hold establishments accountable for the continuous successful operation of their HACCP and other process control systems.
Verification inspection procedures will be carried out by inspectors after the company's process control systems have been completed. The slaughter process is generally considered to be complete after final washing and before carcasses enter the process for reducing temperatures. Thus, in poultry establishments, for example, samples taken after the final wash but before carcasses enter the chiller will be carefully examined for a variety of food safety and other consumer protection defects that should be removed by this point.
The Agency has no plans to reduce its workforce. FSIS does, however, expect that its new slaughter inspection procedures will result in a need for fewer in-plant inspectors. Initially, in these five plants, FSIS will have one inspector per line for oversight, one or more inspectors per plant for verification, and one veterinarian per plant. Inspectors not needed in these plants will be used to cover existing vacancies as well as to perform in-distribution activities.
Under the models, plants are required to take corrective action if their process control systems are not producing products meeting Federal standards. The authority of inspection personnel to take action in plants will be the same as in plants operating under traditional inspection. Inspectors have the authority to stop the line as appropriate, retain product that they believe is adulterated or misbranded, to withhold the marks of inspection, and to reject facilities, equipment, or any parts of the plant they determine are not in compliance with the regulations.
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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