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Small Plant News: Volume 6, Number 5

 

This page provides a text alternative for Volume 6, Number 5, available in full-color PDF 

 Changes Proposed to Defined Workday 
By Jane Johnson, DVM
 
On March 19, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register, Docket No. FSIS-2011-0032, which would amend current regulations pertaining to the schedule of operations.

As you know, the agency amended the regulations last year with the publication of a final rule that became effective on July 11, 2011. At that time, the 8-hour workday in slaughter plants was redefined to include the time that agency personnel need to spend at the workplace putting on and taking off their required gear, time spent walking to their work stations after putting on the required gear, and time spent walking from their work stations prior to taking off the required gear. This means that these activities must either be performed during the 8 consecutive hours of mandatory inspection that you receive free of charge, or they must be performed while on overtime. (You, as the plant owner/operator, decide which you prefer.) 

The agency changed the regulations because the Supreme Court ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) covers (1) any activity that is essential and necessary to a principal activity (an activity that an employee is employed to perform); and (2) any walking time during a continuous workday that occurs after the beginning of the employee’s first principal activity and before the end of the employee’s last principal activity (IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21 [2005]).

During development of the final rule, FSIS determined that there are three other activities that need to be included as a part of the defined workday because they are essential and necessary to the principal work of inspectors. It’s important to remember that the changes described in this article will only apply if this proposed rule becomes final and goes into effect.

1. The sharpening of knives in meat slaughter plants.

Livestock carcass inspection includes making cuts to cattle carcass heads and certain organs and to the head of swine carcasses. In both cases, the inspector makes the cuts while the carcasses are on the slaughter line, and a sharp knife is essential to ensuring that the cuts are made efficiently, effectively, and safely. 

Under the proposed rule, FSIS inspectors in livestock slaughter plants would need to sharpen their knives during the 8 hours of mandatory inspection or during an overtime period. If you provide a knife-sharpening service for inspectors, then the agency will instruct inspectors performing on-line duties to use it. 

The following table depicts the amount of time that FSIS has tentatively determined inspectors would need to sharpen their knives:

Slaughter Line Number of days of work/week Time needed to sharpen knife Frequency
Cattle 3 or less 15 minutes Once per week
Cattle 4 or more 15 minutes Twice per week
Swine Any number 15 minutes Once per week

 

The agency is basing its estimate of 15 minutes to sharpen a knife on an agency CD–ROM training video, "Knife-Safety and Sharpening Skills." In the video, it took an estimated 15 minutes to sharpen a knife. To determine the number of times a week a knife needs to be sharpened, FSIS considered a variety of factors, such as the species (i.e., cattle or swine) and the number of carcasses  being inspected.

2. The completion of administrative duties (e.g., time and attendance).

The completion of the AD-3530-4, "Time and Attendance Report," constitutes the most time-consuming and regularly occurring administrative duty that agency personnel may have to accomplish within the 8-hour workday. At slaughter plants, FSIS estimates agency personnel need 1 minute every day to complete the time and attendance report. Therefore, FSIS inspectors in livestock slaughter plants would need 1 minute every day to complete the time and attendance activity, either by incorporating it into the 8 hours of inspection or in an overtime period.

To determine this time estimate, FSIS evaluated the time needed to complete the actual "Time and Attendance Reports" by agency personnel performing on-line inspection duties. FSIS took into account various activities, such as the need to code the leave and record the overtime. Also, the agency included the time needed for agency personnel to obtain the time and attendance record and to gather the data to be recorded on the time report. Based on its evaluation and the factors it considered, FSIS estimates that each day agency personnel need 1 minute within the scheduled 8-hour workday to allow for the completion of the time and attendance report.

3. Preparing for inspection (e.g., preparing a work station or obtaining forms).

It’s necessary to set up work stations in livestock slaughter plants to include supplies needed for post-mortem inspection, such as stamps used to identify condemned parts. This preparation can be done by slaughter plant personnel. If the plant chooses not to have its personnel prepare the work station, FSIS supervisory personnel at livestock slaughter plants would measure the amount of time it takes agency personnel to don the required gear, walk to a work station, prepare the work station, return from the work station, and doff the required gear.

In poultry slaughter plants, inspectors on poultry slaughter lines do not prepare the work station. However, they pick up and drop off lot tally sheets, which capture the number of birds condemned on post-mortem inspection, the conditions for which birds are condemned per lot, and the class of poultry for that lot. FSIS supervisory personnel in poultry slaughter establishments would measure the amount of time it takes agency personnel to don the required gear, pick up a lot tally sheet, walk to a work station, return from the work station, drop off a lot tally sheet, and doff the required gear.

The agency accepted comments on this proposed rule until April 18, 2012. Comments received in response to this docket are available for public inspection at www.regulations.gov. For access to background documents or comments received, go to the FSIS Docket Room at Patriots Plaza III, 355 E Street, Room 8-164, Washington, DC 20250-3700 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

FSIS will carefully consider all comments received in response to this proposed rule. The rule is posted on the agency’s Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules/proposed-rules-2012. If you wish to receive email notifications when new Federal Register notices, proposed rules, and interim and final rules are published, you may sign up at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register. Just click on the link next to the little envelope at the top of the page.

For more information on this proposed rule or help on signing up for email notifications, contact the Small Plant Help Desk at 1-877-FSISHELP (1-877-374-7435) or InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov.

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Consumers To Receive Food Safety Alerts Through State Twitter Feeds 
By Jane Johnson, DVM 
In the 21st century, social networking services have become a useful way to provide information to the public, as well as to industry. One of the more popular services is Twitter, a real-time information network. FSIS is taking full advantage of this communication tool.

Currently, recalls are announced through news releases and FSIS’ primary Twitter feed, @USDAFoodSafety, which contains information to help consumers identify the recalled product. 

In addition, in March 2012, the agency launched a series of Twitter feeds that will provide State-specific food safety alerts to consumers. Followers of these Twitter accounts will receive alerts about the recalls of meat, poultry, and processed egg products in their State, as well as information on how to protect their food supply during severe weather events.

"These new Twitter feeds provide yet another mechanism for us to provide consumers with critical updates and relevant information they need to protect their families from foodborne illness," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "The immediacy of information-sharing through social media is unparalleled, and we believe these timely, targeted updates will better protect public health."

A list of all FSIS State food safety alert Twitter feeds is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/current-recalls-and-alerts#Twitter. For more information on creating a Twitter account and
accessing these State feeds, go to twitter.com.

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AFDO Provides Information as a Mobile Application 
By Jane Johnson, DVM 
The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) is now providing its publication, A Guide to Can Defects and Basic Components of Double Seam Containers, as a Mobile application, or App for short. The App may be downloaded for free to both Android and Apple devices. You should search for “Can Defects Guide” either in the Android market or the Apple App store.

The colored, simplified pictorial guide available through the App shows some of the major types of can defects which may be commonly found by visual observation. The defects or damages are categorized according to the degree of potential hazard each one poses.The App also shows what to look for in a routine visual inspection of the finished product and what defects may occur during the canning process.

AFDO is an international, non-profit organization that tries to ensure the adoption of science-based, uniform rules, laws, and regulations for food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and product safety. For more information, you may wish to visit the AFDO Web site at www.afdo.org.

Commonly Asked Questions & Answers
Q. Is a cubed steak considered a chopped product or is it a muscle cut, since the meat isn’t chopped into separate pieces?

A. A cubed steak is not considered a chopped product. It is a muscle cut.

Q. Does the total carbohydrate value have to be listed on point-of-purchase materials?

A. Yes. Total carbohydrate is a core nutrient and must be listed on labels or point-of-purchase materials. For meat or poultry, total carbohydrates will generally be declared as “0.”

Q. Are not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken parts that are destined for further processing by use of irradiation or high pressure processing at another Federal establishment eligible for sampling under the Nationwide Raw Chicken Parts microbiological baseline study?

A. Yes, generally. The purpose of the baseline is to collect data concerning foodborne pathogens and microorganisms that serve as indicators of process control in all not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken parts potentially destined for sale as an NRTE product to consumers. Therefore, FSIS will typically be sampling and testing chicken parts destined for NRTE processing, even if they are destined for high pressure processing (HPP) or irradiation. FSIS will not be sampling off-site at the HPP or irradiation facility, so it is appropriate that FSIS sample such products before that treatment. In addition, sampling and testing prior to HPP or irradiation provides FSIS with a more direct measure of controls at the fabrication establishment.

Typical irradiation or HPP treatments are not designed to guarantee that all bacteria on a product have been destroyed, as is the case when the poultry part is subjected to thorough cooking. However, FSIS would not sample the parts destined for HPP or irradiation if there is a validated process to result in a 7-log reduction of Salmonella as the target pathogen of public health concern in the poultry part. That level of pathogen reduction would be equivalent to thorough cooking to produce ready-to-eat product. 

Note: A validated process achieving at least a 5-log reduction of Salmonella would be sufficient for meat (non-poultry) products.

Q. Once a meat or poultry product (e.g., a meat or poultry frankfurter) label bearing a nutrition facts panel has been sketch approved by the agency, can the nutrition facts panel be generically approved for similar products (e.g., other brands of meat and poultry frankfurters an establishment produces)? 

A. Yes. Once a label bearing a nutrition facts panel is sketch approved, the nutrition facts panel may be applied to similar products (e.g., other brands of frankfurters an establishment produces) generically, provided the serving size does not change. Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 317.5(b)(9)(xxii) and 9 CFR 381.133(b)(9)(xxiii) allow for the generic approval for quantitative adjustments to the nutrition labeling information except for changes to the serving size. Therefore, the labels would not need to be submitted for sketch approval unless the serving size changes, e.g., from one frank to two franks. 

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Small Plant NEWS
Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training: Stephanie Wilkins, Acting Assistant Administrator
Editor: Daniel P. Puzo
Managing Editor: Jane Johnson, DVM
Production: Sally Fernandez
Design: Gordon Wilson, Duane Robinson
Contact: Small Plant News, USDA/FSIS, Patriots Plaza III, Rm. 9-267A, Mailstop 3778
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250
1-800-336-3747
Email: SmallPlantNews@fsis.usda.gov

Last Modified Jul 18, 2013