|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
Media Communications Office
(202) 720-9113; FAX: (202) 690-0460
Contact: Elizabeth Gaston
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 1999--Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and three volunteer plants began the pilot-testing phase of a new inspection models project. The project is an effort to more fully integrate the principles of a science-based, preventive food safety system into slaughter operations and to determine if this new system is at least as effective as--or better than--current inspection systems.
Twenty-eight plants that slaughter young, healthy animals have volunteered so far to be a part of this nationwide test and are in various stages of preparing for the project. Goldkist, Inc., Guntersville, AL; Hatfield Quality Meats, Inc., Hatfield, PA; and Quality Pork Processors, Inc., Austin, MN, are the first plants ready to test the new procedures. Goldkist, Inc., slaughters young chickens; the other two plants slaughter market hogs.
"With plants accepting their proper responsibility for providing safe meat and poultry products, we can better focus our resources within the plant and on aspects of the farm-to-table continuum that are the greatest risk to consumers," said FSIS Administrator Tom Billy.
Under the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project, volunteer plants are extending their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems to cover activities conducted at slaughter to remove from the food supply meat and poultry that are not safe for human consumption. The plants have also developed process control plans to address non-food safety conditions. These activities are not currently covered under HACCP. Plants will assume responsibility for identifying and removing carcasses with non-food safety defects, defining corrective actions, and solving production control issues.
FSIS will conduct oversight inspection and verification inspection to ensure plants are meeting regulatory requirements and are producing food that is safe for consumers. FSIS has set pathogen and other performance standards that plants must meet and will take action if plants do not meet the standards.
All existing statutory responsibilities will be met under the new inspection procedures. Inspectors will have the same authority to stop a line as appropriate, to retain product that 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 regulations.
At each of the volunteer plants, baseline data under the current system of inspection is being gathered before the new procedures are implemented, and this national data will be compared to data collected during the models phase. The new system must be at least equal to or an improvement over the current system in order to deem the experiment a success. Should the project be successful, the data can provide the support for rulemaking, which would be necessary before any regulatory requirements can be broadly changed. FSIS hopes to publish a final rule for young chickens in fall 2000.
As part of the project, FSIS will also redeploy some inspectors currently assigned within plants to sample and verify the safety and proper handling of meat and poultry after they leave the plant. Four states-Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Virginia, and Alabama-have been selected as the first sites to test the in-distribution models, which are expected to begin in January 2000.
Implementation of the project will continue through next year. Of the 28 plants that have volunteered, three slaughter hogs, five slaughter young turkeys, and 20 slaughter young chickens. No beef plants have volunteered for this project.
For Further Information, Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-9113
Fax: (202) 690-0460
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