[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 162 (Thursday, August 21, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 49565-49637]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office
[FR Doc No: 2014-18526]



[[Page 49565]]

Vol. 79

Thursday,

No. 162

August 21, 2014

Part II





 Department of Agriculture





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 Food Safety and Inspection Service





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9 CFR Parts 381 and 500





Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 162 / Thursday, August 21, 2014 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Parts 381 and 500

[Docket No. FSIS-2011-0012]
RIN 0583-AD32


Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is amending the 
poultry products inspection regulations to establish a new inspection 
system for young chicken and all turkey slaughter establishments. Young 
chicken and turkey slaughter establishments that do not choose to 
operate under the new poultry inspection system may continue to operate 
under their current inspection system. The Agency is also making 
several changes to the regulations that will affect all establishments 
that slaughter poultry other than ratites. This final rule is a result 
of the Agency's 2011 regulatory review efforts conducted under 
Executive Order 13563 on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.

DATES: 
    Effective Date: October 20, 2014.
    Notification Date: All young chicken and turkey slaughter 
establishments will initially have until February 23, 2015, to notify 
their District Office in writing of their intent to operate under the 
New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). Establishments that do not notify 
their District Office of their intent by February 23, 2015, will be 
deemed to have chosen the inspection system that they are currently 
operating under. Young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments that 
decide that they would like to convert to NPIS after the initial 
notification date may notify FSIS of their intent at any time after 
that date. The Agency will implement the NPIS in the additional 
establishments that intend to convert on a schedule consistent with 
Agency resources and readiness. The Agency intends to implement the 
NPIS in all young chicken and turkey establishments that choose to 
operate under the NPIS, regardless of when the establishment notifies 
FSIS of its intent to transition to the NPIS. However, the initial 
implementation wave will only include those establishments that 
submitted their notifications within the initial notification period.
    After October 20, 2014, FSIS will begin selecting from those 
establishments that have notified FSIS of their intent to switch to the 
NPIS. The Agency will use a computerized ranking system to determine 
the schedule of establishments for implementation of the NPIS. This 
ranking system will take into consideration several factors, such as 
FSIS staffing needs, past performance of the establishment, the 
location of the establishment with respect to other federally-inspected 
establishments, and establishment readiness to transition to the NPIS. 
FSIS will implement the NPIS in phases by clusters of establishments in 
close geographic proximity to one another. The initial implementation 
wave will only include those establishments that notified FSIS of their 
intent to switch to the NPIS during the initial six-month notification 
period. FSIS expects that in subsequent years many more establishments 
will choose to transition to the new system. The Agency's 
implementation strategy for the NPIS is described in more detail in the 
preamble to this final rule.
    Applicability Dates: The regulations that prescribe procedures for 
controlling visible fecal contamination in 9 CFR 381.65(f), the 
regulations that prescribe procedures for controlling contamination 
throughout the slaughter and dressing process in 9 CFR 381.65(g), and 
the regulations that prescribe recordkeeping requirements in 9 CFR 
381.65(h) will be applicable as follows:
     In large establishments, defined as all establishments 
with 500 or more employees, on November 19, 2014;
     In small establishments, defined as all establishments 
with 10 or more employees but fewer than 500, on December 19, 2014;
     In very small establishments, defined as all 
establishments with fewer than 10 employees or annual sales of less 
than $2.5 million February 17, 2015.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Engeljohn, Assistant 
Administrator, Office of Policy and Program Development, FSIS, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 
20250-3700, (202) 205-0495.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Executive Summary

    In January 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 
13563 on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review. As part of this 
E.O., agencies were asked to review existing rules that may be 
outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to 
modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them accordingly. As a result of 
FSIS's regulatory review efforts conducted under E.O. 13563, on January 
27, 2012, the Agency published a proposed rule to modernize poultry 
slaughter inspection (``Modernization of Poultry Slaughter 
Inspection,'' 77 FR 13512). This final rule adopts, with modifications, 
the provisions in the January 2012 proposal. FSIS is issuing this rule 
to facilitate pathogen reduction in poultry products, improve the 
effectiveness of poultry slaughter inspection, make better use of the 
Agency's resources, and remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to 
innovation.
    This final rule will establish a New Poultry Inspection System 
(NPIS) for young chicken and all turkey slaughter establishments. The 
NPIS will not replace, as was proposed, the current Streamlined 
Inspection System (SIS), the New Line Speed Inspection System (NELS), 
or the New Turkey Inspection System (NTIS). As such, young chicken and 
turkey slaughter establishments may choose to operate under the NPIS or 
may continue to operate under their current inspection system, i.e., 
SIS, NELS, NTIS, or Traditional Inspection, as modified by this final 
rule. Establishments that slaughter poultry other than young chickens 
or turkeys are not eligible to operate under the NPIS unless they 
obtain a waiver under the Salmonella Initiative Program. The Agency is 
not limiting the number of online inspectors in Traditional Inspection 
to two, as was proposed. FSIS will continue to staff all establishments 
that do not choose to operate under the NPIS with their current number 
of online inspectors.
    The NPIS is designed to facilitate pathogen reduction in poultry 
products by shifting Agency resources to allow FSIS inspectors to 
perform more offline inspection activities that are more effective in 
ensuring food safety, while providing for a more efficient and 
effective online carcass-by-carcass inspection. Data from the Agency's 
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems (HACCP)-Based 
Inspection Models Project (HIMP) pilot study,\1\ which was used to 
inform the NPIS, show that an inspection system that provides for 
increased offline inspection activities that are more directly related 
to food safety results in greater compliance with sanitation and HACCP 
regulations, carcasses with

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lower levels of visible fecal contamination, and carcasses with 
equivalent or lower levels of Salmonella contamination.
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    \1\ See ``Evaluation of HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP), 
August 2011 (available on the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/fcd9ca3e-3f08-421f-84a7-936bc410627c/Evaluation_HACCP_HIMP.pdf?MOD=AJPERES).
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    Key elements of the NPIS include: (1) Requiring that establishment 
personnel sort carcasses and remove unacceptable carcasses and parts 
before the birds are presented to the FSIS carcass inspector; (2) 
shifting Agency resources to conduct more offline inspection activities 
that are more effective in ensuring food safety, which will allow for 
one offline verification inspector per line per shift and will reduce 
the number of online inspectors to one; (3) replacing the Finished 
Product Standards (FPS), which will apply to establishments that 
continue operating under SIS, NELS, and NTIS, with a requirement that 
establishments that operate under the NPIS maintain records to document 
that the products resulting from their slaughter operations meet the 
definition of ready-to-cook (RTC) poultry; and (4) authorizing young 
chicken slaughter establishments to operate at a maximum line speed of 
140 birds per minute (bpm), provided that they maintain process 
control.
    Under all of the current inspection systems, online inspectors 
visually inspect every carcass, with its corresponding viscera, at 
fixed locations on the evisceration line immediately after separation 
of the viscera from the interior of the carcasses. The online 
inspectors are responsible for identifying unacceptable carcasses and 
parts, examining carcasses for visual defects, and directing 
establishment employees to take appropriate corrective actions if the 
defects can be corrected through trimming or reprocessing. The maximum 
line speeds authorized under the existing inspection systems reflect 
the time it takes for an inspector to effectively perform the online 
carcass inspection procedures required under these systems.
    Under the NPIS, there will be one online carcass inspector (CI) and 
one offline verification inspector (VI) assigned to each evisceration 
line. As under the HIMP inspection system, VIs and CIs under the NPIS 
will have different but complementary roles in ensuring that poultry 
products leaving the slaughter line are safe and wholesome. Under the 
NPIS, CIs will conduct a continuous online inspection of each carcass 
at a fixed location immediately before the chiller to determine whether 
each carcass is not adulterated. CIs under the NPIS will be able to 
conduct a more efficient and effective online carcass inspection than 
online inspectors do under the current inspection systems because the 
CIs are presented with carcasses that have been sorted, washed, and 
trimmed by establishment employees, and are thus much more likely to 
pass inspection.
    The VIs under the NPIS will conduct offline food safety-related 
inspection activities and will monitor and evaluate establishment 
process controls. The VIs will conduct carcass verification checks on 
carcass samples collected before the CI station to ensure that the 
establishment is effectively sorting carcasses and that it is producing 
products that comply with the Agency's zero visible fecal tolerance and 
other performance standards. The VI and CI will work with the 
inspector-in-charge (IIC) to ensure that the carcasses presented to the 
CI are not affected with food safety defects or other conditions at 
levels that may impair the CI's ability to effectively inspect each 
carcass. VIs will also perform offline activities in addition to 
carcass verification checks, such as verifying compliance with 
sanitation standard operating procedures (SOPs), sanitation performance 
standards (SPS), and HACCP regulatory requirements, and ensuring that 
the establishment is meeting all regulatory requirements and is 
effectively preventing contamination by enteric pathogens and fecal 
material throughout the entire slaughter and dressing process.
    The fastest maximum line speed authorized under the current 
inspection systems is 140 bpm under the SIS for young chickens. To 
determine line speeds for SIS, FSIS conducted field and work 
measurement studies of online inspectors to determine the time needed 
for an inspector to perform the SIS inspection procedure. The studies 
showed that online inspectors can perform the SIS inspection procedure 
at line speeds of up to 140 bpm if each inspector is presented with up 
to 35 bpm. Thus, under SIS, establishments with automated evisceration 
equipment may operate at 140 bpm with four FSIS online inspectors 
assigned to the line. The maximum line speeds authorized under the 
other inspection systems are 91 bpm with three online inspectors for 
NELS, and 51 bpm for light turkeys with two online inspectors and 45 
bpm for heavy turkeys with two online inspectors for NTIS. As noted in 
the proposed rule, Traditional Inspection is typically employed at 
smaller lower production volume establishments that eviscerate 
carcasses by hand (77 FR 4410). Thus, the maximum line speeds 
authorized under Traditional Inspection are slower than those under 
SIS, NELS, and NTIS. The maximum line speed for young chickens under 
Traditional Inspection is 64 bpm with four online inspectors. The 
maximum line speed for turkeys under Traditional Inspection is 39 bpm 
with three online inspectors.
    As discussed in more detail later in this document, since 2007, 
HIMP young chicken establishments have been authorized to operate at 
line speeds of up to 175 bpm, depending on their ability to demonstrate 
consistent process control. Experience from the HIMP pilot shows that 
HIMP establishments operate with an average line speed of 131 bpm, and, 
although they are authorized to do so, most of the young chicken HIMP 
establishments do not operate line speeds at 175 bpm. Establishments 
determine their line speeds based on their equipment and facilities, 
bird size and flock conditions, and their ability to maintain process 
control when operating at a given line speed. In addition, line speeds 
under HIMP depend on the number of employees that the establishments 
hire and train to perform sorting activities. Although the maximum line 
speed under the NPIS is 140 bpm and not 175 bpm as authorized under 
HIMP, FSIS believes that establishments choosing to operate under the 
NPIS will determine their line speeds based on the same factors that 
establishments considered when setting line speeds under HIMP for the 
past 15 years.
    Regardless of line speed, because HIMP and NPIS do not require that 
establishments configure their evisceration lines to accommodate more 
than one online carcass inspector, establishments operating under the 
NPIS will have greater control over their lines and greater flexibility 
over their production process. For example, as under HIMP, 
establishments operating under the NPIS will have the flexibility to 
reconfigure and consolidate lines if they determine that they need more 
space to conduct other activities in their facilities. In addition, 
because only one online inspector is required at the end of the line, 
establishments operating under the NPIS will not need to adjust their 
production based on the availability of FSIS inspection personnel to be 
stationed online. Establishment employees will staff the lines to 
perform the online sorting activities. Establishments that operate 
under NPIS will also have greater flexibility to increase production to 
respond to customer demands.
    As under HIMP, in addition to having more control over their 
production process, establishments operating under the NPIS will also 
have more opportunities for innovation and greater flexibility to 
develop and implement certain types of new technologies. Currently, if 
an establishment operating

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under the existing inspection systems wants to use new technologies for 
evisceration or for sorting, the establishment must work directly with 
the Agency to accommodate FSIS`s online slaughter inspection 
methodologies. Doing so takes time and can become an obstacle to 
innovation. Under the NPIS, establishments will have direct control of 
the sorting process within their facilities and therefore will have the 
flexibility to implement and assess the technologies they think are 
beneficial to their operations.
    In addition to the NPIS for young chickens and turkeys, this final 
rule includes changes to the regulations that will apply to all 
establishments that slaughter poultry other than ratites. Under this 
final rule, all poultry slaughter establishments must develop, 
implement, and maintain written procedures to ensure that carcasses 
contaminated with visible fecal material do not enter the chiller, and 
they must incorporate these procedures into their HACCP plans, or 
sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs (also referred to 
collectively as ``the HACCP system'' in this document). This final rule 
also requires that all poultry slaughter establishments develop, 
implement, and maintain written procedures to prevent contamination of 
carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens and fecal material throughout 
the entire slaughter and dressing operation, and that they incorporate 
their procedures into their HACCP systems. At a minimum, these 
procedures must include sampling and analysis for microbial organisms 
at the pre- and post-chill points in the process to monitor process 
control for enteric pathogens, with some exceptions for very small and 
very low volume establishments. Establishments will be required to 
maintain daily records sufficient to document the implementation and 
monitoring of these procedures. These new requirements will ensure that 
all poultry slaughter establishments implement appropriate measures to 
prevent contamination of carcasses by enteric pathogens and visible 
fecal material and that both FSIS and establishments have the 
documentation they need to verify the effectiveness of these measures 
on an ongoing basis.
    FSIS is also rescinding the regulation that requires that poultry 
establishments test carcasses for generic E. coli to monitor for 
process control. The generic E. coli regulations will be replaced by 
the new testing requirements described above. The new testing 
requirements will allow establishments to develop sampling plans that 
are more tailored, thus more effective in monitoring their specific 
process control than the current generic E. coli criteria. The Agency 
has concluded that the use of generic E. coli as an indicator for 
process control may not be as useful in broiler operations as 
originally thought. The Agency is taking this action to allow 
establishments to use other more relevant indicators of process 
control. The Agency established new performance standards for 
Salmonella and Campylobacter in 2011 to more effectively manage these 
pathogens (76 FR 15282). Therefore, FSIS is removing the codified 
Salmonella pathogen reduction performance standards for poultry.
    Finally, FSIS is removing the prescriptive time and temperature 
parameters from the chilling requirements for RTC poultry and instead 
is requiring that poultry establishments incorporate procedures for 
chilling poultry into their HACCP systems. The Agency is also amending 
the regulations to permit poultry slaughter establishments to use (1) 
approved online reprocessing antimicrobial systems or (2) offline 
reprocessing antimicrobial agents including chlorinated water 
containing 20 ppm to 50 ppm available chlorine or other antimicrobial 
substances that have been approved as safe and suitable for 
reprocessing poultry. Establishments will be required to address the 
use of online or offline reprocessing in their HACCP systems.

    Table 1--Estimated Net Social Benefits From the Rule (Millions of Dollars), Annualized Over 10 Years With a 7% Discount Rate, for Varying Percent
                                                               Changes That Switch to NPIS
                                                     [Percentage of Industry that Switches to NPIS]
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                                 0%            10%                25%                50%                75%                90%                100%
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NPIS:
Benefits:
    Public health benefits         0.0   1.0 (0.3 to 1.7)   2.4 (0.8 to 4.3)   4.8 (1.6 to 8.7)  7.2 (2.4 to 13.0)  8.6 (2.9 to 15.7)  9.6 (3.3 to 17.4)
     (10%, 90%).............
    FSIS net savings........       0.0                2.3                5.7               11.4               17.1               20.5               22.8
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    Unquantified benefits...  Increased flexibility for establishments to design and implement production measures tailored to their operations, in some
                                               cases possibly including increased line speed up to 140 chickens or 55 turkeys per minute
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Costs:
    Costs to establishments.       0.0                1.6                4.0                8.0               12.0               14.4               16.0
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    Unquantified costs......   Industry cost of responding to new NPIS inspections in a manner that may lead to public health benefits (e.g., discarding
                                                                        contaminated food or cooking it longer)
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Mandatory Component:
    Costs to establishments.       9.1                9.1                9.1                9.1                9.1                9.1                9.1
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    Unquantified benefits...                          Potential additional public health benefits from documentation and testing
    Unquantified costs......     Industry cost of responding to information generated by documentation and testing in a manner that may lead to public
                                                       health benefits (e.g., discarding contaminated food or cooking it longer)
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    Total benefits (10%,           0.0   3.3 (2.6 to 4.0)  8.1 (6.5 to 10.0)      16.2 (13.0 to      24.3 (19.5 to      29.1 (23.4 to      32.4 (26.0 to
     90%)...................                                                              20.1)              30.1)              36.2)              40.2)
    Total costs.............       9.1               10.7               13.1               17.1               21.1               23.5               25.1
    Net benefits (10%, 90%).      -9.1    -7.4 (-8.1 to -  -5 (-6.6 to -3.1)      -0.9 (-4.1 to  3.2 (-1.6 to 9.0)       5.6 (-0.1 to  7.3 (0.9 to 15.1)
                                                     6.7)                                  3.0)                                 12.7)
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    FSIS presents the costs and cost savings that would be generated 
over a range of assumptions with respect to how much of the industry 
will choose to adopt NPIS within five years. These estimates are scaled 
from an illustrative calculation that assumes that all 219 small and 
large non-Traditional establishments adopt NPIS, which, while used to 
calculate potential maximum effect, is not necessarily FSIS's 
assumption of the most likely outcome. Later portions of the regulatory 
impact analysis section contain discussion of the uncertainty 
surrounding the net benefits associated with how much of the industry 
will choose to adopt NPIS.

Table of Contents

I. Background
II. Summary of Modifications Made to the Proposed Rule
III. Comments and Responses
    A. NACMPI and Public Process
    B. The HIMP Report
    1. Data and Methods Used in the HIMP Report
    2. HIMP as the Basis for the NPIS
    3. Carcass Inspection Under HIMP
    4. Public Health-Related Non-Compliances
    5. OCP Standards Under HIMP
    6. Salmonella Positive Rates in HIMP Establishments
    C. The Risk Assessment
    D. The New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS)
    1. General Comments on the NPIS
    2. Scope of the NPIS
    3. Carcass Sorting and Inspection Under the NPIS
    a. Carcass Sorting by Establishment Employees
    b. Online Carcass Inspection
    c. Inspection for Avian Visceral Leukosis
    d. Verification Inspection
    e. RTC Poultry Definition Under the NPIS
    4. Facilities Requirements and Staffing for NPIS
    a. Facilities Requirements
    b. Staffing
    5. Line Speeds Under the NPIS
    a. Line Speeds and Process Control
    b. Line Speeds and Online Carcass Inspection
    E. Implementation of the NPIS
    1. Background
    2. Implementation Strategy
    3. Comments on Proposed Implementation Plan
    F. Line Speeds and Worker Safety
    1. Collaboration With the National Institute for Occupational 
Safety and Health
    2. Collaboration With OSHA
    3. General Comments on Line Speed and Worker Safety
    4. Inspection Line Speed, Processing Line Speed, and Production 
Volume
    5. Factors Influencing Inspection Line Speed
    6. Inspection Line Speed and Inspector Safety Under the NPIS
    7. Industry Efforts To Address Worker Safety
    8. Reporting of Work-Related Injuries
    9. Attestation to FSIS on Work-Related Conditions
    G. Changes That Affect All Establishments That Slaughter Poultry 
Other Than Ratites
    1. Procedures and Recordkeeping Requirements for Preventing 
Contamination by Enteric Pathogens and Visible Fecal Contamination
    2. Sampling and Testing Requirements To Monitor Process Control
    a. Sampling Plan and Sampling Sites
    b. Very Small and Very Low Volume Establishment Sampling
    c. Sampling Frequency
    d. Indicator Organisms and Baseline
    3. Rescind Testing for Generic E. coli for Establishments That 
Slaughter Poultry Other Than Ratites
    4. Rescind Codified Salmonella Performance Standards
    H. Elimination of Time/Temperature Chilling Requirements
    I. Online Reprocessing
    J. Animal Welfare Considerations
    1. Welfare of Live Birds
    2. Line Speeds and Animal Welfare
    3. Animal Welfare and the Reduction in Number of Online 
Inspectors
    K. Environmental Impact
    L. Economic Impact
    1. General
    2. Environmental Justice
    3. Small Business Considerations
    4. Implementation Costs
IV. Executive Order 12866 and 13563
V. Final Regulatory Flexibility Act
VI. Executive Order 12988
VII. E-Government Act
VIII. Executive Order 13175
IX. USDA Non-Discrimination Statement
X. Paperwork Reduction Act
XI. Additional Public Notification
XII. Final Regulatory Amendments

I. Background

    On January 27, 2012, FSIS published the proposed rule, 
``Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection,'' to establish a new 
inspection system for young chickens and turkeys. Under the proposal, 
the new poultry inspection system (NPIS) would have replaced the 
current Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), the New Line Speed 
Inspection System (NELS), and the New Turkey Inspection System (NTIS). 
The NPIS that FSIS is adopting in this final rule is consistent with 
the inspection system that FSIS proposed in January 2012, with 
modifications, which are described below. However, in this final rule, 
FSIS is not eliminating SIS, NELS, or the NTIS, as was proposed. This 
final rule will leave all existing inspection systems in place to give 
establishments the flexibility to operate under the system that is best 
suited to their operations.
    In the proposed rule, FSIS also proposed changes to the regulations 
that would apply to all establishments that slaughter poultry other 
than ratites. FSIS is adopting these proposed changes, with some 
modifications, which are also described below.
    When FSIS issued the proposed rule, it initially gave the public 
until April 26, 2012, to submit comments. The Agency later extended the 
comment period until May 29, 2012. The public meeting and the Agency's 
decision to extend the comment period are discussed below.

Comment Period and Public Meeting

    On March 21, 2012, FSIS held a public meeting with its National 
Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) via Web 
conference to discuss the January 2012 proposed rule to modernize 
poultry slaughter inspection. FSIS held the meeting in response to a 
request from certain members of the committee. At the meeting, FSIS 
provided an overview of the proposed rule and then held an open 
discussion with the committee members. A transcript of the public 
meeting is available on the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/advisory-committees/nacmpi.
    When the Agency held the public meeting, the comment period for the 
proposed rule was scheduled to close on April 26, 2012. At the public 
meeting, some of the committee members representing consumer advocacy 
organizations requested that FSIS extend the comment period. A 
coalition of consumer advocacy organizations also submitted a written 
request for the Agency to extend the comment period. On April 26, 2012, 
FSIS announced that it was extending the comment period until May 29, 
2012 (77 FR 24873).
    In the Federal Register document that announced the comment period 
extension, FSIS explained that during the comment period, the Agency 
had met with a coalition of consumer advocacy organizations and two 
trade associations representing the poultry industry to clarify certain 
aspects of the proposed rule to help inform their comments (77 FR 
24873). Because the issues addressed in these meetings may have been 
relevant to the development of other stakeholders' comments, the 
Federal Register document summarized the issues raised at the meetings 
and the Agency's responses. In the Federal Register document, FSIS also 
requested additional comments on how it should implement the final rule 
resulting from the January 2012 proposal. The Agency also requested 
available data on potential worker safety issues associated with 
increased line speeds. In addition, the Agency explained that it had

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received a request to hold a public technical meeting on the proposed 
rule, but that the Agency did not believe that such a meeting would be 
useful.
    In developing this final rule, FSIS considered all comments 
submitted in response to the January 2012 proposed rule, as well as 
those provided at the NACMPI public meeting held in March 2012. Based 
on its analysis of the issues and of the information provided by the 
comments, FSIS made certain changes to, and clarified certain aspects 
of, the proposed regulations. Those revisions are summarized below and 
are discussed in detail in the Agency's responses to comments.

II. Summary of Modifications Made to the Proposed Rule

    In this document, FSIS is finalizing, with some changes, the 
provisions in the January 27, 2012, proposed rule ``Modernization of 
Poultry Slaughter Inspection'' (77 FR 4408). The Agency is modifying 
the proposal to:
     Change the maximum line speed permitted under the NPIS to 
140 bpm for young chickens, for entities that chose to operate under 
NPIS. The maximum line speed for turkeys will be 55 bpm, as was 
proposed;
     Leave all existing poultry inspection systems in place and 
allow young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments that do not 
choose to operate under the NPIS to continue to operate under their 
current inspection system;
     Continue to staff all establishments that do not choose to 
operate under the NPIS with the number of online inspectors that they 
currently have;
     Allow young chicken establishments that currently operate 
under HIMP through a Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) waiver to 
continue to operate under a waiver to run at a maximum line speed of up 
to 175 bpm;
     Update the SIP waivers for young chicken establishments 
currently operating under HIMP to remove aspects of HIMP that are 
inconsistent with the NPIS;
     Establish a phased approach to implement the NPIS in 
geographic clusters;
     Establish separate applicability dates for large, small, 
and very small establishments to comply with the provisions in the rule 
that prescribe the new recordkeeping and microbiological sampling 
requirements that will apply to all establishments that slaughter 
poultry other than ratites. The applicability dates will provide 
additional time for small and very small establishments to comply with 
these provisions;
     Revise the facilities requirements for the NPIS to require 
that the online carcass inspection platform be height adjustable;
     Clarify that the records that establishments operating 
under the NPIS are required to maintain to document that the products 
resulting from their slaughter operations meet the definition of RTC 
poultry are subject to review and evaluation by FSIS personnel;
     Revise the proposed regulation that prescribes maximum 
line speed rates under the NPIS to emphasize establishments' existing 
legal obligation to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health 
Administration's regulations;
     Establish a new subpart in the regulations that requires 
each establishment that participates in the NPIS to submit on an annual 
basis an attestation to the management member of the local FSIS circuit 
safety committee stating that it maintains a program to monitor and 
document any work-related conditions of establishment workers. Current 
young chicken HIMP establishments that will be operating under the 
updated SIP waivers described above will be required to submit the 
annual attestation as a condition of their updated waivers;
     Permit very small and very low volume establishments to 
conduct sampling for microbial pathogens only at the post-chill point 
in the slaughter and dressing process to monitor their process control 
procedures instead of requiring sampling at pre- and post-chill, as was 
proposed;
     Prescribe a minimum frequency with which all 
establishments that slaughter poultry other than ratites will need to 
conduct testing for microbial organisms to monitor the effectiveness of 
their process control procedures; and
     Revise the definition for ``air chill'' to allow an 
antimicrobial intervention to be applied with water at the beginning of 
the chilling process if its use does not result in any net pick-up of 
water or moisture during the chilling process. The initial 
antimicrobial intervention may result in some temperature reduction of 
the product if the majority of temperature removal is accomplished 
exclusively by chilled air.
    In addition, because the proposed pre-and post-chill sampling 
requirements will not apply to ratite slaughter establishments, FSIS is 
retaining the generic E. coli testing regulations as they apply to 
ratites only, but is rescinding the provisions in these regulations 
that apply to all other poultry classes. Poultry establishments other 
than establishments that slaughter ratites will be required to comply 
with the new sampling requirements prescribed in this final rule.

III. Comments and Responses

    FSIS received over 250,000 comment letters in response to the 
January 2012 proposed rule. Most comments were submitted as part of 
organized write-in campaigns. The Agency also received a petition that 
included approximately 150,000 signatures and form letters before the 
comment period closed. The Agency received two petitions in November 
2012, after the comment period had closed. One of these petitions 
included approximately 180,000 signatures and 13,000 comments, and the 
other included over 3,500 signatures. FSIS received an additional 
petition in September 2013 with approximately 43,000 signatures. All of 
the petitions requested that the Agency withdraw the proposed rule. The 
issues raised in the petitions and comments submitted in November 2012 
and September 2013 are similar to the issues raised by the petition and 
comments submitted during the comment period. Therefore, the Agency 
will address the issues raised in all of the petitions and associated 
comments in this document.
    Most of the individual comments were submitted as part of various 
write-in campaigns initiated by consumer advocacy organizations, labor 
unions, animal welfare organizations, and worker and human rights 
advocacy organizations. FSIS also received individual comments from 
private citizens, inspection personnel, and members of labor unions.
    In addition to the individual comments, form letters, and 
petitions, the Agency also received approximately 120 separate comment 
letters from trade associations representing the poultry industry, 
companies that conduct poultry slaughter operations, consumer advocacy 
organizations, public health organizations, labor unions, animal 
welfare advocacy organizations, members of academia, a State Department 
of Agriculture, and worker/immigrant/human rights advocacy 
organizations. Following is a summary of the comments and FSIS's 
responses.

A. NACMPI Meeting and Public Process

    Comments: Several consumer advocacy organizations expressed their 
concern that FSIS published the proposed rule in the Federal Register 
before it consulted with the NACMPI. According to the comments, the 
Agency

[[Page 49571]]

is required to consult with members of the NACMPI before proposing 
changes to its meat and poultry inspection program, and that the Agency 
should have consulted with the NACMPI before publishing the proposed 
rule to modernize poultry slaughter inspection.
    Response: FSIS held the March 21, 2012, NACMPI public meeting in 
response to a request from certain committee members representing 
consumer advocacy organizations that the Agency convene the committee 
to discuss the proposed rule. At the meeting, FSIS made clear that it 
was interested in the committee's comments and suggestions, but that 
the Agency was not seeking consensus from the committee.
    FSIS disagrees that the Agency was required to consult with the 
NACMPI before proposing changes to its poultry inspection program. 
Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products 
Inspection Act (PPIA), the Secretary is authorized to ``appoint 
advisory committees consisting of such representatives of appropriate 
State agencies . . . to consult with him concerning State and Federal 
programs with respect to [meat and poultry] inspection and other 
matters within the scope of this chapter . . .'' (21 U.S.C. 661(a)(4) 
and 21 U.S.C. 454(a)(4)). The Secretary of Agriculture established the 
NACMPI to provide advice concerning State and Federal programs with 
respect to meat and poultry inspection, food safety, and other matters 
that fall within the scope of the FMIA and PPIA. Under the NACMPI 
Charter, FSIS consults with the committee in carrying out its specific 
responsibilities under 21 U.S.C. 607(c), 624, 645, 661(a)(3), and 
661(c) of the FMIA and 21 U.S.C. 454(a)(3), 454(a)(4), 454(c), 457(b), 
and 460(e) of the PPIA. These sections address: Type styles and sizes 
of labeling; definitions and standards of identity or composition; 
standards of fill of container; consistency of Federal and Federal-
State standards; storage and handling regulations; exemption of 
establishments subject to non-Federal jurisdiction; Federal provisions 
applicable to State or Territorial business transactions of a local 
nature and not subject to local authority; scope of cooperation; and 
State meat inspection requirements. Thus, the NACMPI charter does not 
require that FSIS consult with the NACMPI before proposing changes to 
its poultry inspection program, although the Agency conducted a public 
meeting after the proposed rule was issued to seek feedback on the 
proposal.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations noted that FSIS 
decided not to hold a technical public meeting as requested by a 
coalition of consumer advocacy organizations.
    Response: As stated in the Federal Register comment period 
extension document, FSIS decided not to hold a public technical meeting 
on the proposed rule because the Agency did not believe that such a 
meeting would be useful (77 FR 24873). In April 2012, in response to a 
request from a group of consumer advocacy organizations, FSIS extended 
the comment period for the proposed rule. In the Federal Register 
document that announced the comment period extension, FSIS summarized 
issues that were raised in separate meetings with consumer and industry 
stakeholders and clarified certain aspects of the proposed rule to help 
inform stakeholder comments. In that document, the Agency also provided 
additional information on worker safety issues and its tentative 
strategy to implement the NPIS, and it solicited comments and data on 
both issues. As such, FSIS provided the public with all of the 
information it might have during a technical meeting, but through the 
public comment process. Thus, the process for developing this final 
rule was open and transparent and provided several opportunities for 
stakeholder input.
    Comment: One public health association said that FSIS failed to 
comply with E.O. 12866 and E.O. 13563 requirements with respect to 
public participation. The comment said E.O. 13563 requires that 
agencies make all of the documents they rely on to justify rules 
available to the public, and FSIS did not do so. According to the 
comment, as of May 19, 2012, more than 80 days after the proposal was 
published, there were only two documents in the public record posted by 
USDA at Regulations.gov, the January 27, 2012, and April 26, 2012, 
Federal Register document. The comment said that only 12 records are 
posted on the FSIS Web site. According to the comment, the public is 
unable to provide informed comments when the underlying records used to 
develop the proposed rule are not available for review.
    A labor union criticized the Agency for publishing a complex 
statistical analysis while providing little raw data in the supporting 
documents. The comment also questioned whether the comment period for 
the proposed rule provided sufficient time for stakeholders to 
adequately consider the supporting data.
    Response: The Agency plans to post supporting documentation for 
this final rule and future Agency rulemakings on Regulations.gov. 
Although FSIS acknowledges that the underlying records used to develop 
the proposed rule were not posted on Regulations.gov, the proposed rule 
and all related documents, including supporting materials, were posted 
on the FSIS Web site when the proposed rule published in the Federal 
Register. The supporting materials included the Evaluation of the 
HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project; the draft 2011 FSIS Risk 
Assessment for Guiding Public Health-Based Poultry Slaughter 
Inspection; the Agency's response to Peer Review Comments on its draft 
2008 Risk Assessment for Guiding Public Health Risk-Based Poultry 
Slaughter Inspection; and the On-Line and Off-Line Reprocessing In-
Plant Trial Analysis. The supporting data for the analyses in the 
Evaluation of the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project are presented 
in tables in the report and in the appendices. The data and modeling 
methods used in the 2011 FSIS Risk Assessment for Guiding Public 
Health-Based Poultry Slaughter Inspection are also fully described in 
the Appendix to that document.
    The proposed rule and the Federal Register document extending the 
comment period for the proposed rule were posted on both the FSIS Web 
site and Regulations.gov when those documents published in the Federal 
Register. The preamble to the proposed rule includes the FSIS Web site 
link to the related materials and supporting documents, and it explains 
that these documents are also available in the FSIS docket room. These 
materials have been available on the Agency's Web site during the 
entire comment period and remain available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules/proposed-rules-2012/!ut/p/a1/jZDBCoJAEIafpQeQnVURPdqCpaUikdleYsHVFsxdVuvQ06d0UpKcOf3w_XzMIIoKRFv2EjXrhWxZM2bq3CADB3sEojTwAwgTK8jdZIfBxgNwnQAeHoE8Sw-EgJtYK_sL48O_frRCYOqYxDWiivV3Q7SVREXFS65ZY2hei67nGhVKSyU7Xhr62fBung0TsIkuiE51gIcddCd7HyUWpPYc-PGPL7B8sHqci_dx64XC33wAFla5ew!!/?1dmy&current=true&urile=wcm%3apath%3a%2Ffsis-content%2Finternet%2Fmain%2Ftopics%2Fregulatory-compliance%2Fhaccp%2Fhaccp-based-inspection-models-project%2Fhimp-study-plans-resources%2Fpoultry-slaughter-inspection.
    With respect to the comment that said that FSIS did not provide 
sufficient time for public comment, E.O. 12866, as supplemented by E.O. 
13563, states that agencies are to ``afford the public . . .

[[Page 49572]]

with a comment period that should generally consist of not less than 60 
days.'' FSIS provided a 90-day comment period for the proposed rule and 
then extended it for an additional 30 days. The Agency believes that 
the public had ample time to consider the issues raised in the proposed 
rule and supporting documentation in order to develop their comments.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization criticized the Agency for 
including the anticipated cost savings from the proposal in the 
Agency's 2013 proposed budget to Congress before the public comment 
period for the proposal closed.
    Response: The Agency concluded that an open, transparent, and 
effective budgetary process requires that the Agency report on the rule 
and the associated estimated budget. In addition, the Appropriations 
Committee Report that accompanied the FY 2013 appropriations bill 
directs the Agency to notify the Committee of the status of the rule 
not later than September 15, 2012.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ House Appropriations Committee report, p. 23 (http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hrpt-112-ap-fy13-agriculture.pdf).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. The HIMP Report

    In the proposed rule, FSIS explained that it was proposing to 
establish a new system of inspection for young chickens and turkeys 
based on its experience under the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project 
(HIMP) pilot study (77 FR 4421). As discussed in the proposal, FSIS 
initiated the HIMP pilot study in 20 young chicken and 5 turkey 
slaughter establishments on a waiver basis after the Agency implemented 
the 1996 HACCP regulations. Similar to the NPIS, under HIMP, 
establishment personnel are responsible for sorting carcasses, 
disposing of carcasses affected with conditions that would require that 
they be condemned, and conducting any trim and reprocessing that they 
believe necessary to correct removable defects.
    In the HIMP inspection system, a single FSIS online carcass 
inspector (CI) visually inspects every carcass at a fixed point on the 
evisceration line immediately before the chiller. Under HIMP, an 
offline verification inspector (VI) is responsible for conducting 
system verification activities that the Agency has concluded will be 
more effective in ensuring food safety, such as conducting offline 
carcass verification checks for septicemia/toxemia and visible fecal 
contamination, collecting samples for pathogen testing, and verifying 
the effectiveness of an establishment's HACCP system by, among other 
activities, reviewing the establishment's HACCP plan and HACCP 
monitoring records, observing establishment employees performing tasks 
specified in the HACCP plan, reviewing and determining the adequacy of 
the corrective actions taken by the establishment when a deviation 
occurs, and conducting measurements of critical control points (CCPs). 
The Agency analyzed the data collected from the HIMP study and prepared 
a written report that presents an evaluation of the model tested (see 
the ``HIMP Report,'' available on the Agency's Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/fcd9ca3e-3f08-421f-84a7-936bc410627c/Evaluation_HACCP_HIMP.pdf?MOD=AJPERES).
    The HIMP Report assesses FSIS inspection findings across four 
interrelated inspection activities:
    1. Inspection of each carcass by the CI to determine whether the 
carcass is not adulterated and thus eligible to bear the mark of 
inspection.
    2. Verification by VIs of the establishment's execution of its HIMP 
process control plan, under which establishment employees sort 
acceptable and unacceptable carcasses and parts.
    3. Verification of the establishment executing its sanitation SOPs 
and HACCP system.
    4. Verification of the outcomes of the establishment's HIMP process 
control plan, both organoleptic and microbiological.
    Inspection of each carcass by the CI to determine whether the 
carcass is not adulterated. Based on an analysis of data collected from 
April 1, 2009, through March 31, 2011, the HIMP Report found that fewer 
than 0.0008 percent of the carcasses presented to the CI were affected 
with septicemia/toxemia, and fewer than 0.08 percent had visible fecal 
contamination. Despite these low rates, the CIs in HIMP establishments 
detected carcasses affected with septicemia/toxemia at a rate of 
0.000004 percent or 4 per 100 million carcasses slaughtered and 
carcasses with visible fecal contamination at a rate of 0.0009 percent 
or 9 per 1 million carcasses slaughtered.
    Verification by VIs of the establishment's execution of its HIMP 
process control plan. The HIMP Report compares the ratio of all offline 
inspection procedures conducted in HIMP and non-HIMP establishments in 
calendar year (CY) 2010. FSIS inspectors in HIMP establishments perform 
offline inspection procedures to verify that the establishments are 
properly executing their HIMP process control plans. This comparison 
shows that overall in CY 2010, FSIS offline inspection personnel 
performed 1.6 times more offline inspection procedures in HIMP 
establishments than in non-HIMP establishments.
    Verification of the establishment executing its sanitation SOPs and 
HACCP system. The sanitation SOP and HACCP regulations are among the 
regulations most strongly related to public health. The HIMP Report's 
comparison of the ratio of offline inspection procedures performed in 
HIMP and non-HIMP establishments in CY 2010 shows that FSIS offline 
inspectors in HIMP establishments performed about 3.0 times more 
sanitation SOP and HACCP inspection procedures than offline inspectors 
performed in non-HIMP establishments. It also shows that offline 
inspectors in HIMP establishments performed 3.4 more HACCP procedures 
that include random verification of all HACCP requirements than 
inspectors in non-HIMP establishments.
    The HIMP Report also compares health-related non-compliances in 
HIMP and non-HIMP establishments from CY 2006 through CY 2010. These 
data show that health-related non-compliance record (NR) rates at HIMP 
establishments are not statistically different from or are 
statistically lower for all inspection procedures considered. The HIMP 
Report also found that the rate of health-related non-compliances for 
visible fecal contamination from CY 2006 through CY 2010 is about 1.6 
times lower in HIMP establishments than in non-HIMP establishments.
    Verification of the outcomes of the establishment's HIMP process 
control plan, both organoleptic and microbiological. To assess the 
outcomes of establishment's process control plans in addressing visible 
food safety defects and defects related to the wholesomeness or quality 
of the product, referred to as ``other consumer protection'' (OCP) 
defects, FSIS developed performances standards for these defects based 
on the performance of non-HIMP establishments. The performance 
standards allow the Agency to compare the performance of establishments 
operating under HIMP and non-HIMP inspection systems in controlling 
visible food safety and OCP defects.
    A comparison of the findings of the offline VIs in HIMP 
establishments for the two-year period April 1, 2009, to March 31, 
2011, with the HIMP food safety defect performance standards show that 
the rate of septicemia/toxemia in carcasses processed in HIMP 
establishments (8 per 1 million or 0.0008 percent) is 125 times lower 
than

[[Page 49573]]

the HIMP performance standard (0.1 percent). The HIMP Report also found 
that the rate of visible fecal material on carcasses processed in HIMP 
establishments (fewer than 0.8 per thousand or 0.08 percent) is 19 
times lower than the HIMP performance standards (1.5 percent). A 
comparison of the findings of the offline VIs in HIMP establishments 
for the two-year period January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010, with 
the HIMP OCP performance standards show that OCP defects identified on 
carcasses processed in HIMP establishments averaged about half the 
corresponding OCP HIMP performance standard.
    To assess the microbiological outcomes of HIMP establishments' 
process control plans, the HIMP Report analyzed data from FSIS's 
Salmonella verification testing program collected from CY 2006 through 
CY 2010. The HIMP Report compares the Salmonella percent positive rates 
in 20 HIMP broiler establishments, 64 non-HIMP comparison 
establishments, and all 176 non-HIMP broiler establishments. The 
analysis shows that Salmonella positive rates in HIMP establishments 
average about 80 percent of those in non-HIMP establishments.
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that the 
Agency had concluded, based on analysis of the two-year data sets of 
food safety and OCP defects, that establishments operating under the 
HIMP inspection system performed better than establishments operating 
under non-HIMP inspection systems with respect to rates of food safety 
defects and OCP defects that may affect the wholesomeness or quality of 
the product (77 FR 4419). Data on health-related NRs collected from CY 
2006 through CY 2010 show that non-compliances for fecal contamination 
are lower in HIMP than in non-HIMP establishments and that HIMP 
establishments have a higher compliance with sanitation SOP and HACCP 
regulations. HIMP establishments also had equivalent or lower 
Salmonella positive rates than non-HIMP establishments. The Agency 
explained that it was proposing to establish a new poultry inspection 
system informed by HIMP that would replace the SIS, NELS, and NTIS 
inspection systems for young chickens and turkeys (77 FR 4421).
    FSIS received several comments on the HIMP Report and the Agency's 
analysis of the data collected under the HIMP study. Comments from the 
poultry industry and trade associations representing the poultry 
industry generally agreed with the findings of the HIMP Report and 
supported the Agency's decision to establish a new poultry inspection 
system. Comments from private citizens, consumer advocacy 
organizations, labor unions, and members of academia raised issues and 
concerns regarding the data collected under HIMP and the Agency's 
conclusions based on the HIMP study results.
1. Data and Methods Used in the HIMP Report
    Comment: Several comments from consumer advocacy organizations and 
private citizens questioned whether data collected under that HIMP 
study should be used to inform the NPIS. The comments said that the 
HIMP pilot has never been independently evaluated to determine whether 
the establishments operating under the HIMP inspection system are 
producing food that is as safe as product produced in establishments 
operating under non-HIMP inspection systems.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comment. In 2002, after the 
Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its December 17, 2001, 
report on HIMP \3\ (referred to as the ``2001 GAO report''), FSIS 
contracted with a technical review team selected by the National 
Alliance for Food Safety to review and evaluate the data collected from 
young chicken establishments operating under HIMP. The review team 
focused on the validity of the HIMP study design and methodology to 
determine whether FSIS could use the organoleptic and microbial data 
collected under HIMP to compare the performance of establishments 
operating under HIMP and non-HIMP inspection systems. Overall, the 
review team found that the HIMP study design and methodology were valid 
and provided a useful and legitimate comparison of the HIMP and non-
HIMP inspection systems. The review team's findings are described in 
the report: ``Review of the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project by 
the National Alliance for Food Safety Technical Team'' \4\ (also 
referred to as ``The Hargis Report'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ GAO, 2001. Food Safety: Weaknesses in Meat and Poultry 
Inspection Pilot Should Be Addressed Before Implementation: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0259.pdf.
    \4\ The Hargis Report is available for viewing by the public in 
the FSIS docket room and on the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/nacmpi/Nov2002/Papers/NAFS97.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As stated in the report, ``[t]he review team noted some issues 
related to optimal design and interpretation, but finds that overall 
the data collected were both meaningful and useful and that the study 
was designed and conducted under real-world conditions and 
limitations.'' The review team also concluded that ``the overall design 
and methodology . . . were perhaps the best available options to allow 
for comparison of organoleptic data between the traditional and HIMP 
systems.''
    Comment: One consumer advocacy organization noted that the HIMP 
Report said that the Agency's evaluations of microbiological and 
inspection findings are based on data for calendar years (CY) 2006 
through 2010, with certain exceptions where only more recent data are 
available. According to the comment, the HIMP Report does not explain 
why certain data are missing or why time periods for comparisons are 
not uniform. The comment noted that the Agency only analyzed data from 
CY 2010 when comparing the ratio of offline inspection procedures 
performed in HIMP and non-HIMP establishments.
    Response: The time periods for the data that were analyzed for the 
HIMP Report vary because not all data were available as computerized 
data sets. Data on the number of carcasses affected with food safety 
and OCP defects were not available as computerized data sets. FSIS 
field personnel manually collected these data and recorded the results 
on paper forms. To reduce the burden on its field personnel, FSIS 
decided that an analysis of two years' worth of these non-computerized 
data sets would be sufficient. The HIMP report data for the number of 
carcasses affected with food safety defects is from April 1, 2009, 
through March 31, 2011, and data for carcasses affected with OCP 
defects is from January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2010.
    In the body of the HIMP Report, the Agency used computerized data 
collected from CY 2010 to compare the ratio of offline inspection 
procedures performed in HIMP and non-HIMP establishments. The Agency 
used data from 2010 for this analysis because it was the most recent 
data available. Tables C-2 and C-3 in the Appendix of the HIMP Report 
contain summary information on non-compliances with sanitation SOP and 
HACCP regulations and on the number of inspection procedures in HIMP 
and non-HIMP establishments from CY 2006 through 2010. The data for 
these years are similar to the data from CY 2010.
    Comment: One comment noted that in the preamble to the proposed 
rule, the Agency compares findings (1) by VIs of OCP defects between 
January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010; (2) by VIs of food safety 
defects between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2011; and (3) by CIs of 
food safety defects between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2011. The 
comment

[[Page 49574]]

said that while these time periods are not very different, it is 
possible that the slight shifts were made to conceal results that would 
be less supportive, or that would even contradict Agency claims.
    Response: The two-year period January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010 
was used to evaluate OCP defects, while the two-year period April 1, 
2009, to March 31, 2011 was used to evaluate compliance with the HIMP 
food safety standards. Both of these comparisons used the most recent 
data available at the time. This is the reason for the different time 
periods.
2. HIMP as the Basis for the NPIS
    Comment: A trade association representing the poultry industry 
stated that the HIMP pilot program has been successfully carried out 
for the last 13 years. The comment said that during that time, food 
safety records in establishments operating under the HIMP inspection 
system have been as good as those in non-HIMP establishments. The 
comment stated that the equivalent or lower pathogen rates in HIMP 
establishments compared to non-HIMP establishments, as documented in 
the HIMP Report, are evidence that the program has been successful. The 
comment noted that this success is especially significant given that 
the review team selected by the National Alliance for Food Safety 
determined that food safety performance standards provide a 
scientifically valid measure by which performance of HIMP 
establishments can be evaluated (Hargis et al. 2002). The comment 
stated that, based on the data, the trade association agreed with the 
Agency's conclusion that the NPIS is a positive step toward enhancing 
food safety.
    On the other hand, several consumer advocacy organizations 
questioned whether it is appropriate for FSIS to use the HIMP study 
results to predict how establishments will perform when operating under 
the NPIS. The comments noted that the 2001 GAO report criticized FSIS 
for not randomly selecting establishments for the HIMP pilot study and 
questioned whether the data generated by the pilot could be used to 
predict how all of the young chicken establishments would perform if 
FSIS were to adopt the HIMP inspection system nationwide.
    Several comments stated that because participation in the HIMP 
study was voluntary and required that poultry establishments meet 
additional food safety and OCP performance standards, participating 
establishments could be viewed as high performers with respect to food 
safety. The comments asserted that for this reason, data from the HIMP 
pilot may not represent what FSIS is likely to see when the majority of 
young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments begin to operate 
under the NPIS.
    Response: The trade association comments support the agency 
proposal. With regard to concerns raised by the consumer advocacy 
organizations, FSIS addressed these issues in its comments on and 
response to the 2001 GAO Report. In that document, FSIS stated that 
although not randomly selected, there is evidence that volunteer 
establishments participating in the HIMP study are typical of the 
industry. The volunteer establishments represent diversity in 
geography, corporate structure, management styles, number of 
evisceration lines, product distribution patterns, inspection system in 
use prior to the pilot, and other variables. In addition, the Hargis 
Report, discussed above, noted that the establishments selected for the 
HIMP pilot represent the States supplying the majority of domestic 
chicken production and the size range of establishments included in the 
study are representative of almost 90 percent of chickens slaughtered 
in federally-inspected facilities in the United States. The Hargis 
Report noted that establishment design, equipment, and procedures 
within poultry establishments are relatively uniform. The report 
concluded that ``[i]t is very difficult to hypothesize a geographic or 
plant-selection bias in this study.''
    Comment: Two consumer advocacy organizations stated that the NPIS 
is not an exact replica of the HIMP pilot, which raises further 
concerns about whether results from the HIMP pilot accurately reflect 
how establishments will perform under the NPIS.
    Response: Although the NPIS is not an exact replica of HIMP, the 
NPIS was informed by the data collected under HIMP. These data 
demonstrate that an inspection system that combines the features 
described in this document, which include carcass sorting by 
establishment employees, a CI that conducts an inspection of each 
carcass before the chiller, and, most important, a VI that conducts 
more offline inspection activities that specifically focus on food 
safety, does not reduce the effectiveness and may, in fact, lead to 
better compliance with sanitation and HACCP regulations and in 
carcasses with lower levels of fecal contamination and equivalent or 
lower levels of Salmonella contamination.
    In addition, as discussed in detail below, in the 2014 risk 
assessment, analysis of historical data shows a statistically 
significant correlation between specifically targeted unscheduled 
offline inspection procedures and reductions in Salmonella positive 
samples in young chicken slaughter establishments and Campylobacter 
positive samples in young turkey slaughter establishments. Modeled 
scenarios involving an increase in targeted inspection activities 
(specifically unscheduled offline inspection activities, rather than a 
randomly selected set of activities) suggest that implementing the NPIS 
would likely result in public health benefits. Assuming that the number 
of offline inspection procedures performed in all poultry slaughter 
establishments increase proportionately to the number of such 
procedures currently performed in HIMP establishments, FSIS's risk 
model predicts a likely public health benefit. Consistent with the 
underlying assumptions of the model, it is reasonable to conclude that 
inspection systems in which Agency resources continue the core online 
inspection activities while enhancing the frequency and focus of 
unscheduled offline activities directly related to food safety, such as 
HIMP and the NPIS, would likely result in a lower prevalence of 
carcasses contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter, which in turn 
would likely lead to fewer human illnesses.
    Comment: One consumer advocacy organization criticized the Agency's 
evaluation of HIMP. The comment stated that the HIMP Report compares 
the current performance of HIMP establishments with performance levels 
observed from 1998-2000 when FSIS collected baseline data from 
establishments that later joined the HIMP pilot.
    The comment also stated that the Agency failed to explain how the 
performance level of the bottom four establishments that entered the 
HIMP pilot is representative of approximately 200 other establishments 
more than a decade later.
    Response: The Hargis Report, described above, concluded that the 
design of the HIMP pilot ``is generally appropriate for a field study 
of this nature, and the methodologies employed generally allow for 
interpretation and comparison of [HIMP versus non-HIMP inspection 
systems.]'' The Hargis Report also concluded that comparison of HIMP 
food safety and OCP performance levels with performance standards does 
provide a scientifically valid measure by which changes in food safety 
and OCP performance under HIMP can be assessed.

[[Page 49575]]

    With respect to the comment that suggests that the HIMP OCP 
performance standards represent the performance level of the bottom 
four establishments that entered the HIMP pilot, the HIMP OCP 
performance standards are set at the 75th percentile of what was 
achieved under the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) baseline study of 
16 young chicken establishments under non-HIMP inspection systems 
before they entered the HIMP study. Thus, the performance standards 
were set so that 25 percent of the establishments that entered HIMP 
would have to improve upon their baseline results in order to meet the 
more stringent standards.
3. Carcass Inspection Under HIMP
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that the 
Agency concluded that establishments operating under the HIMP 
inspection system performed better than establishments operating under 
non-HIMP inspection systems with respect to rates of food safety and 
OCP defects (77 FR 4419). With respect to food safety-related defects, 
the Agency noted that data collected from the HIMP study show that the 
levels of carcasses affected with septicemic or toxemic conditions 
(also referred to as ``septicemia/toxemia'') or visible fecal 
contamination in HIMP establishments is very low (77 FR 4415). The HIMP 
Report concluded that notwithstanding these very low levels, the data 
demonstrate that CIs in HIMP establishments effectively identify 
carcasses affected with septicemia/toxemia and visible fecal 
contamination. Several consumer advocacy organizations commented on 
this conclusion.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations stated that the CI 
detection rate for visible fecal contamination and septicemia/toxemia 
is based on the assumption that the rates at which VIs detect these 
food safety-related conditions represents the level at which these 
conditions occur in the establishment. The comments questioned this 
assumption. The comments noted that in HIMP establishments, the VI 
collects eight 10-bird verification samples per line per shift. The 
comment asserted that there is no evidence to indicate that this sample 
size is sufficient to represent the true level of food safety defects 
on carcasses throughout the shift.
    Response: FSIS disagrees that the CI detection rate is based on the 
assumption that the rate at which VIs detect carcasses affected with 
septicemia/toxemia or visible fecal contamination represents the level 
at which these conditions occur in the establishment. The CI detection 
rate is the rate at which CIs in HIMP establishments detected carcasses 
with these food safety-related conditions before the carcasses entered 
the chiller. It is not based on the VI detection rate.
    FSIS believes that its sampling for food safety defects under HIMP 
is sufficient to reflect the level of food safety defects on carcasses 
processed in HIMP establishments. Statistically, given the sample 
design, the precision of an estimate of an establishment's level of 
food safety defects depends primarily on the total number of samples 
for an establishment collected over time.
    The food safety performance standards, which are based on thousands 
of samples collected by a 3rd party contractor and reflect the level of 
food safety defects on carcasses processed in establishments before 
they entered the HIMP pilot, vary by defect category. The performance 
standard for septicemia/toxemia is 0.1 percent, and the performance 
standard for visible fecal contamination is 1.5 percent. When deciding 
the number of samples that FSIS should take to reflect an 
establishment's level of food safety defects over time, FSIS determined 
that collecting 80 birds per line per shift would provide an estimated 
defect rate that was close to the true defect rate.
    For example, if the true defect rate for visible fecal 
contamination was 0.1 percent at an establishment that operated one 
line for two shifts, 300 days per year, taking an 80 bird sample per 
line per shift would give a total of 48,000 samples a year, per line. 
This number of samples, assuming a random distribution of defects 
throughout the year, would give FSIS an estimated defect rate between 
0.72 and .128 percent with about 95 percent probability. Thus, FSIS 
believes that the specified sample size is sufficient to make general 
comparisons of average defect rates among establishments or lines.
    Comment: One consumer advocacy organization stated that another 
reason that the VI detection rate may not represent the actual level of 
food safety-related defects in HIMP establishments is that statements 
it obtained from HIMP inspectors indicate that establishment employees 
take greater care to prevent and remove visible fecal contamination and 
to identify and remove septicemic/toxemic carcasses when they know that 
the VI inspector is getting ready to take a sample.
    Response: The comments seem to suggest that establishment employees 
are able to manipulate the results of the VI's verification checks. 
FSIS disagrees.
    As noted above, VIs in HIMP establishments collect scheduled 
verification samples that consist of eight 10-bird samples per line per 
shift. VIs also collect targeted, unscheduled 10-bird samples in 
response to VI or CI findings of excessive food safety or OCP carcass 
defects.
    VIs in HIMP establishments collect scheduled and unscheduled 
verification samples for septicemia/toxemia and visible fecal 
contamination using the same offline verification methodology that 
offline inspectors in non-HIMP establishments use to collect samples 
for visible fecal contamination checks. In both HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments, offline inspectors do not inform establishment 
employees when they collect verification samples and, equally 
important, take care to ensure that the samples represent the operating 
conditions in the establishment. Thus, there is no reason to believe 
that employees in HIMP establishments have any significant opportunity, 
and certainly no additional opportunity, to affect the results of the 
verification checks.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations said that the data in 
the HIMP Report do not support the Agency's conclusion that CIs are 
able to identify carcasses affected with visible fecal contamination 
and septicemia/toxemia.
    With respect to visible fecal contamination, one consumer advocacy 
organization stated that the data presented in the HIMP Report indicate 
that CIs did not detect 88 out of 89 birds with fecal contamination 
going down the line. The comment stated that the inspectors in the VI 
position who were able to examine both the inside and the outside of 
the bird detected visible fecal contamination on the carcass at 
approximately 90 times the rate that the CIs detected it. Another said 
that based on the data, it is reasonable to calculate that CIs failed 
to detect over a quarter of a million carcasses with fecal 
contamination in the 20 HIMP establishments within the two-year period 
of data collection.
    With respect to septicemia/toxemia, one comment said that data 
presented in the HIMP Report indicate that CIs detect approximately 1 
of every 200 carcasses affected by septicemia/toxemia. The comment said 
that this means that the CI does not detect 199 of every 200 carcasses 
affected with septicemia/toxemia.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the commenters' conclusions. The 
commenters' assessments are based on a

[[Page 49576]]

comparison of the results of the CI's carcass inspection and the VI's 
carcass verification checks and do not take into account the difference 
between the role of the CI and VI under HIMP. Under HIMP, the 
inspections performed by the VI and CI serve different purposes and are 
not done in the same way. Thus, the rate at which VIs identify food 
safety defects when conducting offline verification checks is not an 
appropriate basis for assessing whether the CI is conducting an 
effective inspection of each carcass leaving the slaughter line.
    Under the HIMP inspection system, the VI and CI have different but 
complementary roles in ensuring that poultry products leaving the 
slaughter line are safe and wholesome. CIs are responsible for 
conducting a continuous online inspection of each carcass to determine 
whether it is not adulterated. The VI's role is very different. VIs 
collect carcass samples before the CI inspection station after the 
establishment has conducted sorting, trimming, and reprocessing 
activities to monitor and evaluate the establishment's process 
controls. The samples collected by VIs may be either ``scheduled'' or 
``unscheduled.''
    On the one hand, VIs collect eight randomly selected 10-bird 
samples per line per shift. These are referred to as the ``scheduled'' 
samples because the IIC schedules the collection of the eight sample 
sets before each shift. On the other hand, VIs also collect targeted, 
unscheduled 10-bird samples as directed by the IIC in response to VI or 
CI findings of excessive food safety or OCP carcass defects. These 
samples are in addition to the 80-bird scheduled samples. Because the 
VI's unscheduled samples are collected when excessive carcass defects 
have been identified, the results typically show higher rates of 
carcass defects than the VI's scheduled sampling results.
    The VI detection rates in the HIMP report reflect the combined 
results of the VI's scheduled and unscheduled sampling and are thus are 
much higher than the rates that would have resulted had the VI only 
performed scheduled carcass sampling. Because CIs under HIMP perform an 
online inspection of each carcass, the CI detection rates are not 
subject to the same sampling bias introduced by the unscheduled 
sampling that VIs perform during high defect periods. Significantly, 
FSIS has not captured what percent of the defects found by VIs were 
found in scheduled as opposed to unscheduled sampling. Thus, the VI and 
CI detection rates are not comparable. Therefore, as stated above, the 
comparisons of the VI and CI detection rates cited by the comments do 
not provide a valid assessment of the CI's ability to conduct an 
effective online carcass inspection.
4. Public Health-Related Non-Compliances
    In the proposed rule, the Agency noted that the HIMP Report shows 
that HIMP establishments have public health-related non-compliance 
record(NR) rates that are not statistically different from or that are 
statistically lower than the rates for non-HIMP establishments (77 FR 
4416-4417). The Agency also noted that HIMP establishments had fewer 
NRs for visible fecal contamination than non-HIMP establishments. 
Several consumer advocacy organizations, FSIS inspectors, and a labor 
union commented on these conclusions.
    Comment: Comments from inspectors, labor unions, and consumer 
advocacy organizations stated that the location of the establishment's 
critical control point (``CCP'') for food safety defects may prevent a 
CI from issuing an NR even if the CI detects such a defect. The 
comments noted that at the start of the HIMP pilot, the CCPs for 
visible fecal contamination and septicemia/toxemia were located before 
the FSIS carcass inspection station. The comments stated that before 
FSIS began collecting data to support the proposed rule, the Agency 
allowed the HIMP establishments to move their CCPs for fecal 
contamination and septicemia/toxemia to points after the CI. One 
comment said that the timing for allowing establishments to move CCPs 
to a point after the CI suggests that the primary purpose was to reduce 
the number of NRs issued to HIMP establishments for these conditions. 
Another comment said that the fact that CIs cannot issue an NR if they 
observe food safety defects before the CCP, affects the HIMP Report's 
CI detection rate statistics.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the suggestion that the location of 
the CCP with respect to the CI affects the comparison of NR rates 
between HIMP and non-HIMP establishments. The HIMP Report's analysis of 
NRs for visible fecal contamination in HIMP and non-HIMP establishments 
is based on a comparison of visible fecal NRs detected through offline 
verification activities, not on the CI detection rate, as suggested by 
one of the comments.
    As noted above, the VI under HIMP collects carcass samples after 
establishment employees have sorted and trimmed the carcasses, but 
before the carcasses are presented to the CI. If the VI detects visible 
fecal contamination offline, the VI issues an NR because the 
establishment violated the Agency's zero tolerance for visible fecal 
contamination. If a CI observes a carcass with visible fecal 
contamination the CI stops the line to prevent the carcass from 
entering the chiller. The location of the establishment's CCP for food 
safety defects does not affect the CI's or VI's duties under HIMP. 
Thus, because the NR rate for visible fecal contamination under HIMP is 
based on the VI detection rate, the location of the CCP with respect to 
the CI inspection station does not affect the HIMP Report's analysis of 
visible fecal NRs.
    With respect to the comment that suggested that the location of the 
CCP affects the CI detection rate statistics, the CI detection rate 
reflects the rate at which CIs stop the line to prevent carcasses with 
food safety defects from entering the chiller. Thus, contrary to the 
commenter's suggestion, the location of the CCP after the CI inspection 
station does not affect the CI detection rate.
    Comment: One comment stated that the Agency provided no information 
to demonstrate that documentation policies and opportunities for 
documenting public health-related NRs were the same in HIMP and non-
HIMP establishments. The comment stated that the 2001 GAO report on 
HIMP noted that after the switch to HIMP, a substantial number of 
establishments saw increased fecal NR rates. The comment said that the 
GAO report cited increased line speeds under HIMP as a potential factor 
for the increased rate of fecal NRs. The comment said that these 
findings suggest that the transition to HIMP may result in increased 
rates of fecal contamination.
    Response: As noted in the Agency's comments on the 2001 GAO report, 
under HIMP, the Agency performs verification checks on approximately 80 
carcasses per line per shift as opposed to verification on 
approximately 20 carcasses per line for fecal contamination under non-
HIMP broiler inspection. In addition, VIs under HIMP perform more 
offline inspection activities that FSIS has concluded are more 
effective in ensuring food safety than inspectors perform in non-HIMP 
establishments. Thus, FSIS inspectors in HIMP establishments have more 
opportunities for detecting non-compliances with regulatory 
requirements that are directly related to public health than inspectors 
do in non-HIMP establishments. The procedures for documenting public-
health related NRs are the same for both HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments.
    Although the GAO report cited increased line speeds in HIMP 
establishments as a potential factor for

[[Page 49577]]

the increased rate of fecal NRs, the Agency is not aware of any data to 
support this hypothesis. The increased rates of fecal NRs that occurred 
at the beginning of the HIMP pilot could just as easily be the result 
of increased monitoring under the HIMP inspection system rather than an 
increase in fecal contamination. Further, the final rule includes a 
maximum line speed of 140 bpm under the NPIS rather than the 175 bpm 
allowed in the HIMP pilot.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization stated that it had 
recently acquired records of NRs written for visible fecal 
contamination within the last year from two HIMP establishments and two 
non-HIMP establishments. The comment stated that to the best of the 
commenter's knowledge, all of the establishments are large 
establishments with two production lines and two production shifts. The 
comment said that the non-HIMP establishments had 19 and 23 NRs for 
visible fecal contamination, respectively, and the HIMP establishments 
had 93 and 173 visible fecal NRs, respectively. The comment stated that 
these comparisons add to the concerns that the lower NR rates for HIMP 
establishments described in the HIMP Report may not be good indicators 
of the actual level of food safety defects on carcasses.
    Response: Because the consumer advocacy organization did not 
indicate where it obtained the data or which establishments the data 
are from, FSIS is unable to respond to the comment in detail.
    The HIMP Report's comparison of visible fecal NRs issued from 
offline verification checks in HIMP and non-HIMP establishments 
compares `rates,' which adjust for the number of samples taken. The 
report shows that fecal NR rates at HIMP establishments are 
statistically lower than those in both the control set of 64 non-HIMP 
establishments and the 176 all non-HIMP comparison set. In addition, 
the rate of visible fecal material contamination on carcasses in HIMP 
establishments is about half that in non-HIMP establishments. Thus, 
when the sample is viewed as a whole and rates are the unit of 
comparison, the data show that HIMP establishments have both slightly 
lower visible fecal NR rates and slightly lower rates of visible fecal 
contamination than non-HIMP establishments.
    The comparison included in the comment is based on NR rates from 
two HIMP establishment and two non-HIMP establishments and does not 
necessarily reflect the average NR rates for all HIMP establishments.
    Comment: Another consumer advocacy organization stated that it had 
received records for the first shift of production for 11 young chicken 
and 3 young turkey HIMP establishments from FSIS through a Freedom of 
Information (FOIA) request. The organization analyzed documents that 
covered the period of January 2011 through August 2011. According to 
the comment, the overwhelming number of NRs filed for the 14 
establishments was for visible fecal contamination found on the 
carcasses. The comment stated that out of 229 NRs filed from March to 
August 2011, 208 (90 percent) were for visible fecal contamination. 
Other comments referenced this finding.
    Response: The analysis conducted by the consumer advocacy 
organization is not inconsistent with the conclusions in the HIMP 
Report. While it is true that a large percentage of public health-
related NRs in poultry slaughter establishments are for visible fecal 
contamination, the occurrence of fecal contamination on carcasses in 
HIMP establishments is fewer than 8 per ten thousand carcasses, which 
is about 19 times lower than the HIMP performance standards. In 
addition, the rate of visible fecal material contamination on carcasses 
in HIMP establishments averages about half that in non-HIMP 
establishments (Table 3-7 in HIMP Report).
5. OCP Standards Under HIMP
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS noted that data from the 
HIMP Report show that OCP defects identified on carcasses processed in 
HIMP establishments averaged about half the corresponding OCP HIMP 
performance standards (77 FR 4418). Based on the HIMP data, the Agency 
concluded that establishments operating under the HIMP inspection 
system performed better than establishments operating under non-HIMP 
inspection systems with respect to OCP defects. Several consumer 
advocacy organizations and some private citizens commented on this 
conclusion.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations asserted that the OCP 
standards under HIMP were not stringent. The comments said that even 
with these less than rigorous OCP defect levels, HIMP establishments 
were still just meeting the standards.
    Response: While there is likely to be some variation in performance 
among establishments, for the two year period from CY 2009 through 
2010, FSIS verification data show that OCP defect levels in HIMP 
establishments averaged about half the corresponding OCP performance 
standards.
    In addition, the HIMP OCP performance standards are set at the 75th 
percentile of what was achieved under the RTI's baseline study of the 
performance of 16 establishments before they entered the HIMP study. 
Thus, 25 percent of the establishments that entered HIMP have had to 
improve upon their baseline results to meet the more stringent 
standards.
    Comment: One comment noted that the HIMP study's statistics on 
compliance with OCP performance standards are based on a sampling of up 
to 80 carcasses per slaughter line per shift of production. The comment 
asserted that when each slaughter line is processing upwards of 100,000 
chickens per eight hour shift, this sample size is likely to be too 
small to accurately reflect the level of OCP defects on RTC carcasses 
produced by the establishment.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comment. FSIS believes that its 
sampling for OCP defects under HIMP is sufficient to reflect an 
establishment's level of OCP defects. Statistically, given the sample 
design, the precision of an estimate of an establishment's level of OCP 
defects depends primarily on the total number of samples for an 
establishment collected over time.
    The OCP performance standards, which are based on a tightening of 
the FPS for removable animal diseases and trim and dressing defects for 
establishments before they entered the HIMP pilot, vary by OCP defect 
category. For example the performance standard for OCP-1, Condition-
Animal Diseases, is 1.7 percent, and the performance standard for OCP-
3, Digestive Content (Ingesta), is 18.6 percent. When deciding the 
number of samples that FSIS should take to reflect an establishment's 
level of OCP defects over time, FSIS determined that collecting at most 
80 birds per line per shift would provide an estimated defect rate that 
was close to the true defect rate. For example, if the true defect rate 
for OCP-1 defects was 1 percent at an establishment that operated one 
line for two shifts, 300 days per year, taking an 80 bird sample per 
line per shift would give a total of 48,000 samples a year, per line. 
Eighty samples are not always collected; but in general, close to this 
number were collected daily. It is reasonable to assume that the total 
number of samples would not be less than 90 percent, or 43,200 samples. 
This number of samples, assuming a random distribution of defects 
throughout the year, would give FSIS an estimated defect rate between 
0.905-1.095 percent with about 95 percent probability. Thus, FSIS 
believes that the specified sample

[[Page 49578]]

size is sufficient to make general comparisons of average defect rates 
among establishments or lines.
6. Salmonella Positive Rates in HIMP Establishments
    The HIMP Report compares Salmonella positive rates for HIMP young 
chicken slaughter establishments with a control set of 64 non-HIMP 
establishments and all 176 non-HIMP broiler establishments (77 FR 4418-
4419). The data show that Salmonella positive rates are equivalent or 
lower in HIMP establishments than they are in non-HIMP establishments. 
The Agency concluded that the increase in offline inspection activities 
provided for under HIMP resulted in the initial lower levels of 
Salmonella contamination in HIMP establishments. Several consumer 
advocacy organizations and private citizens commented on the HIMP 
Report's analysis of Salmonella positive rates in HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments and on the Agency's conclusions with respect to this 
analysis.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization stated that the HIMP 
Report's analysis of the Salmonella positive rates for HIMP 
establishments may not reflect the rates for all establishments 
operating under HIMP. The comment noted that data from the Agency's 
Salmonella testing program show that the Agency collected data on 
Salmonella positive rates from only 14 HIMP establishments in 2006, 17 
HIMP establishments in 2007, and 15 HIMP establishments in 2008. The 
comment noted that the Agency collected Salmonella data from only 10 of 
the 20 HIMP broiler establishments in 2010. The comment also said that 
the Agency provided no comparison on Salmonella results in the turkey 
establishments. One member of academia said that the Agency's microbial 
sampling and analysis under the HIMP pilot were not performed with 
adequate frequency or power to detect sporadic low-level contamination 
of carcasses.
    Response: FSIS uses the same methodology to schedule and conduct 
verification sampling for Salmonella in both HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments. Under the FSIS risk-based methodology for scheduling 
Salmonella verification sample sets, not all establishments are sampled 
every year. FSIS schedules up to 75 new sample sets each month. The 
establishments and products selected for sample sets are chosen 
according to a risk-based algorithm that involves sorting the list of 
eligible establishments and their respective products by certain 
criteria and selecting the top 75 from this list. Depending on the 
frequency of production, product type, and availability of resources, 
the time to complete a sample set ranges from less than two months to 
over a year. In establishments that produce more than one product 
subject to Salmonella verification testing, only one product is tested 
at a time. However, since the same method is used in both HIMP and non-
HIMP establishments, Salmonella positive levels represent a valid means 
of comparing the performance of HIMP and non-HIMP establishments.
    With respect to the comment that said that the Agency's microbial 
sampling and analysis under the HIMP pilot were not performed with 
adequate frequency or power to detect sporadic low-level contamination 
of carcasses, the sampling and analysis for Salmonella under the HIMP 
pilot was used to compare performance of both HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments, not to detect sporadic, low-levels of contamination in 
HIMP establishments.
    Comment: One consumer advocacy organization said that the Agency's 
conclusion that HIMP establishments have lower Salmonella positive 
rates than non-HIMP establishments is misleading because the HIMP 
Report compared Salmonella positive rates for HIMP establishments with 
all establishments operating under non-HIMP inspection systems. 
According to the comment, the Agency should have compared rates for 
HIMP establishments with the rates for comparably sized non-HIMP 
establishments.
    Response: The HIMP Report compared Salmonella positive rates in 
HIMP establishments with both comparable non-HIMP establishments and 
all young chicken slaughter establishments. The first comparison set of 
establishments was a subset of 64 non-HIMP establishments selected to 
be comparable to HIMP establishments with respect to total slaughter 
volume, line speeds, and geographic distribution. The second comparison 
set was all 176 non-HIMP establishments that slaughtered young chicken 
in all 5 years considered in the study. The analysis shows that with 
respect to Salmonella positive rates, the HIMP establishments performed 
better than or as well as both the comparison set of 64 non-HIMP 
establishments and the set of all 176 non-HIMP establishments from CY 
2006 through 2010.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization asserted that the 
Salmonella positive rates in HIMP establishments do not support the 
Agency's claim that HIMP establishments have consistently performed 
better under HIMP than they did under non-HIMP inspection systems. The 
comment stated that the Agency's own Salmonella data from 1998-2007 
demonstrate that 14 of the 20 HIMP establishments had lower Salmonella 
positive rates under the non-HIMP inspection systems than they did 
under the HIMP, and that the average Salmonella positive rate for all 
20 of the HIMP establishments was better when the establishments were 
operating under non-HIMP inspection systems. The organization conducted 
its own analysis of the Agency's Salmonella data from January 1, 2006 
through September 20, 2007 and said that its analysis shows that the 
HIMP establishments had an average Salmonella positive rate of 8.9 
percent, while the non-HIMP establishments had an average rate of 6.5 
percent.
    Response: In CY 2006 through 2008, the Salmonella positive rate in 
HIMP establishments was statistically significantly lower than in the 
64 non-HIMP comparison set, and there was no statistically significant 
difference in CY 2009 and CY 2010. A comparison of HIMP establishments 
with all non-HIMP broiler establishments shows that the Salmonella 
positive rate in HIMP establishments was statistically significantly 
lower in CY 2006 through 2009 and not statistically significantly 
different in CY 2010. This analysis demonstrates that with respect to 
Salmonella positives rates, HIMP establishments are performing at least 
as well as current non-HIMP establishments.
    With respect to Salmonella data from January 1, 2006, through 
September 20, 2007, referenced by the comment, FSIS has analyzed the 
most recent data from that time period and found Salmonella positive 
rates of 7.55 percent and 9.61 percent for HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments, respectively.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization stated that in CY 2009 
and CY 2010, HIMP establishments had higher Salmonella positive rates 
than the 64 non-HIMP comparison establishments. The comment noted that 
the HIMP Report shows that the rates for the HIMP establishment were 
4.9 percent and 4.7 percent in CY 2009 and CY 2010, respectively, and 
the rates for the non-HIMP establishments for these years were 4.3 
percent and 4.0 percent, respectively. The comment suggested that 
before moving forward with the NPIS, FSIS should first try to 
understand why this happened.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comment's suggestion that HIMP 
establishments had higher Salmonella rates than non-HIMP establishment 
in CY 2009 and CY 2010. The differences

[[Page 49579]]

in Salmonella positive rates in CY 2009 and CY 2010 noted by the 
comment are not statistically significant. On the other hand, in CY 
2006 through 2008, the Salmonella positive rate in HIMP establishments 
was statistically significantly lower than in the 64 non-HIMP 
comparison set.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations stated that 
reductions in Salmonella positive rates may be the result of factors 
other than increased offline inspection procedures performed under the 
HIMP inspection system. The comments noted that from CY 2006 through 
2008, Salmonella positive carcass rates in HIMP establishments were 
statistically significantly lower than in the non-HIMP comparison 
establishments, but that in CY 2009 and CY 2010, there was no 
statistically significant difference. The comments also noted that both 
HIMP and non-HIMP establishments lowered their Salmonella positive 
rates considerably between CY 2006 and CY 2010.
    The comments asserted that because the Agency did not report any 
changes to the HIMP or non-HIMP inspection systems during that time, it 
is reasonable to assume that factors other than increased offline 
inspection activities in HIMP establishments may have caused such a 
significant decrease in Salmonella positive rates. One comment noted 
that in 2008 FSIS began publishing the names of establishments in 
Categories 2 and 3 under the Agency's new Salmonella performance 
standards. The comment stated that the data for CY 2009 and CY 2010 may 
indicate that the industry as a whole reduced its Salmonella positive 
rates as a result of this initiative. Another comment stated that the 
decline in Salmonella positive rates may have been caused by an 
increase in the use of online reprocessing technology throughout the 
industry.
    Response: In the preamble to the proposed rule, the Agency 
explained that results in CY 2010 most likely reflect the effects of 
the Salmonella initiatives that FSIS began implementing in 2006 to 
reverse the multi-year trend of persistently higher percent positive 
rates for Salmonella detected through the Agency's HACCP verification 
testing each year (77 FR 4419). As a result of these initiatives, the 
industry reduced the incidence of positive Salmonella results, 
particularly those establishments with the highest Salmonella positive 
rates. Nonetheless, before these initiatives were fully implemented, 
the HIMP report shows that HIMP establishments performed better than 
non-HIMP establishments with respect to Salmonella positive rates. The 
reduction in Salmonella positive rates in both HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments reflects the effectiveness of FSIS's initiatives to 
reduce Salmonella industry-wide.
    Comment: One member of academia said that the Agency needs to 
conduct more frequent sampling for a broader range of pathogens to 
assess the impact of the HIMP inspection system.
    Response: Salmonella is a key pathogen of concern in poultry 
products. FSIS conducts Salmonella verification sampling in both HIMP 
and non-HIMP establishments. Thus, Salmonella positive rates are a 
valid means of comparing the performance of both HIMP and non-HIMP 
establishments.

C. The Risk Assessment

    The preamble to the proposed rule explained that in June 2011, FSIS 
completed a quantitative risk assessment to model how performing a 
greater number of sanitation, sampling, and other offline inspection 
procedures in young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments might 
affect the number of human illnesses from Salmonella and Campylobacter 
(77 FR 4420). FSIS updated the 2011 Risk Assessment in response to 
public comments received on the January 2012 proposed rule; that 
version of the risk assessment was subsequently posted to the FSIS Web 
site in August 2012 (referred to as the August 2012 version). In 
addition, the 2011 risk assessment was subjected to independent 
external peer review; the risk assessment was further updated in 
response to the peer review comments. It has also benefited from 
editing consistent with the Office and Management memorandum, Final 
Guidance on Implementing the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (M-11-15), 
striving to make the risk assessment report language ``clear, concise, 
well-organized. The most recent version of the risk assessment, which 
reflects the revisions made in response to public and peer review 
comments, is referred to as the July 2014 version. Both the August 2012 
version and the July 2014 versions have been posted to the FSIS Risk 
Assessment Web page at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/science/risk-assessments.
    The HIMP Report explained that FSIS inspectors performed more 
offline inspections to verify compliance with sanitation SOP and HACCP 
regulations in HIMP establishment than they do in non-HIMP 
establishments. The regression analysis of historical data that was 
included in the risk assessment showed a statistically significant 
correlation between unscheduled offline inspection procedures and 
reduction in the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter positive 
samples. Based on these results, FSIS thinks it is reasonable to 
conclude that the redeployment of Agency resources to unscheduled 
offline activities is likely to contribute to improved food safety 
resulting from a lower prevalence of carcasses contaminated with 
Salmonella and Campylobacter, which in turn we expect to lead to fewer 
human illnesses.
    Comment: Several comments requested that the Agency clarify the 
status of the 2011 risk assessment's peer review. The comments noted 
that the Agency had prepared a risk assessment in 2005 that was peer 
reviewed. The comments said as a result of the peer review, the Agency 
prepared a revised risk assessment in 2008 but, according to the 
comments, the docket for the proposed rule contains neither the 2008 
risk assessment nor a peer review of that risk assessment.
    Response: The FSIS ``Risk Assessment for Guiding Public Health-
Based Poultry Slaughter Inspection'' has been available to the public 
on the FSIS Risk Assessment Web site since 2008 at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/07c57a64-932f-4ebb-977b-2b10e45a1830/Poultry_Slaughter_Risk_Assess_Jan2008.pdf?MOD=AJPERES. The analysis 
was originally peer reviewed in 2006 by an independent group of 
mathematical modeling specialists. The risk assessment was modified and 
improved based on the initial peer review. Because the model and 
analysis has continued to evolve, the 2011 version of both the model 
and analysis have undergone a peer review. The 2011 risk assessment has 
been updated based on the peer review comments. The 2011 risk 
assessment, the peer review comments, FSIS's response to those 
comments, and the current version of the risk assessment are available 
on the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/8f374626-ee06-49d3-9d41-6eb65ad32cbb/Poultry_Slaughter_Risk_Assess_Aug2012.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization said that the risk 
assessment provides little raw data, little explanation of how it was 
analyzed, and is largely silent on the assumptions upon which it was 
based. A comment from a labor union was also critical of the FSIS risk 
assessment.
    Response: FSIS generally disagrees with the comments. The risk 
assessment uses all relevant data taken from FSIS's inspection database 
paired with Salmonella and Campylobacter regulatory and baseline 
sampling data for young chickens and turkeys. Overall,

[[Page 49580]]

substantial amounts of empirical data were used in this risk 
assessment. It uses the Young Chicken Baseline and PR/HACCP Salmonella 
verification data from July 2007-September 2010 and the Young Chicken 
Baseline Campylobacter data from July 2008-September 2009. It also uses 
the Young Turkey Baseline and PR/HACCP Salmonella verification data 
from July 2007-September 2010 and the Young Turkey Baseline 
Campylobacter data from August 2008-July 2009. There are about 40,900 
raw data samples collected on 94 inspection procedures taken from the 
computerized Performance-Based Inspection System (PBIS).
    Although FSIS thinks that the 2011 version of the risk assessment 
is fully documented, the July 2014 version has benefited from the 
addition of language that more clearly describes how the model works 
and articulates more it clearly the underlying assumptions. As noted 
above, this version also was updated in response to peer review 
comments. As discussed above, the 2011 version of the risk assessment, 
the peer review comments on that version, FSIS's response to the peer 
review comments, and the updated 2014 version of the risk assessment 
are posted on the FSIS Web site.
    Comment: A commenter said that one of the major assumptions in the 
risk assessment is that if performing more unscheduled offline 
inspection procedures ``either reduces (or does not change) the 
occurrence of foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter 
on finished poultry products, then a net public health benefit may 
result.'' The comment questioned how there could be a ``net public 
health benefit'' if there is no change to the incidence of pathogens on 
poultry carcasses. The comment said that FSIS should not predicate a 
significant restructuring of the poultry slaughter inspection program 
based on a finding that there will be no change to the incidence of 
contamination of poultry products. According to the comment, any 
substantial change to meat or poultry inspection should result in 
significant improvements to public health.
    Response: The Agency agrees that the statement in the risk 
assessment may not fully articulate how a net public health benefit may 
result if performing more unscheduled offline inspection procedures 
reduces (or does not change) the occurrence of foodborne pathogens. To 
clarify, the risk assessment estimates that if more unscheduled offline 
inspection procedures reduces the occurrence of a specific foodborne 
pathogen, such as Salmonella, but does not change the occurrence of a 
different pathogen, such as Campylobacter, there will be an overall 
reduction in pathogens on finished poultry products. This aggregate 
reduction of pathogens and the subsequent reduction in human illnesses 
is what was hypothesized to result in a net public health benefit.
    The risk assessment characterizes a negative correlation between 
the frequency of unscheduled offline inspection activities and the 
prevalence of both Salmonella and Campylobacter positive samples. Based 
on these modeling results, FSIS thinks it is reasonable to conclude 
that redeployment of Agency resources from online inspection activities 
to targeted unscheduled offline activities is likely to produce an 
improvement in the food safety system resulting from a lower prevalence 
of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter, which 
could in turn result in a net reduction in the number of human 
illnesses.
    Comment: Several comments noted that the Agency conceded that 
``substantial uncertainty about forecasted changes in illness rates'' 
results from uncertainty about the change in future inspection 
activities and the rates of human illnesses attributable to poultry.
    Response: The risk assessment analyzed data on specific types of 
inspection activities and the prevalence of Salmonella and 
Campylobacter in young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments. The 
results suggest that, because inspection personnel assigned to the NPIS 
will conduct more of the type of inspection activities that were 
correlated with lower Salmonella and Campylobacter prevalence, the NPIS 
will likely result in fewer human illnesses than would be expected if 
not implemented. In addition to the expected values, the analysis 
provides the statistical uncertainty of the estimated number of averted 
illnesses by reporting the upper and lower 80 percent confidence bounds 
around the estimates to acknowledge that uncertainty always will exist 
in such models.
    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations noted that the 
2011 version of the risk assessment predicts that additional 
unscheduled offline procedures could lead to as many as 986 fewer 
Campylobacter-related illnesses per year. The comment noted that the 
risk assessment states that ``this analysis suggests ambiguous effects 
of the proposed rule with respect to Campylobacter occurrence on 
chicken carcasses'' and thus does not show a clear public health 
benefit.
    Some comments noted that the Agency recently established a 
performance standard for Campylobacter. The comment said that the 
Agency does not have enough experience with the Campylobacter 
performance standards to assess industry efforts to reduce 
Campylobacter in poultry to make any reasonable predicted public health 
benefits. The comments said that if the Agency's proposed changes to 
poultry slaughter inspection are truly intended to improve public 
health, the Agency needs a much better understanding of Campylobacter 
rates in poultry establishments and of how the Agency's proposal will 
impact those rates.
    One comment added that the risk assessment suggests that ``the 
positive Salmonella implications of HIMP'' could be applied to 
Campylobacter, but the Agency provides no justification for this 
statement. The comment said that several studies point to the 
difficulty of making correlations between controlling for Salmonella 
and controlling for Campylobacter.
    The comments asserted that FSIS should postpone implementation of 
the proposed rule until it has collected additional data on 
Campylobacter and is better able to estimate the impacts of the 
proposed rule on reducing this pathogen.
    Response: The Risk Assessment presented the results of two 
scenarios--one that was based on only increasing unscheduled offline 
procedures (referred to as the ``discriminate scenario'') and one that 
did not specify the particular activities to be increased (referred to 
as the ``indiscriminate scenario''). The former (discriminate 
scenario), which was based on the type inspection procedures performed 
more often in the HIMP establishments, suggested larger improvements to 
public health than the indiscriminate model. FSIS peer-reviewed risk 
assessment (July 2014), results suggest that the discriminate scenario 
of increased off-line inspection could decrease the number of positive 
Salmonella and Campylobacter samples in young chicken and young turkey 
establishments with high probability. This is the scenario upon which 
this rule is based.
    As noted by the comments, the Agency recently established 
performance standards for Campylobacter for young chicken and turkey 
slaughter establishments. Because the Agency has not been collecting 
and analyzing samples for Campylobacter as long as it has been 
collecting and analyzing samples for Salmonella, there are fewer

[[Page 49581]]

Campylobacter sampling results available for analysis. Thus, although 
the trends for the Salmonella and Campylobacter results are the same, 
the Campylobacter results are less robust because of the smaller sample 
size. The updated risk assessment estimates that there would be a 
reduction of 3,980 Salmonella illnesses attributable to young chicken 
and turkey establishments combined. This in itself would be a positive 
public health outcome. Because an increase in unscheduled offline 
inspection activities is expected to result in fewer Salmonella 
illnesses, FSIS believes that there is no reason to delay 
implementation of the rule until the Agency collects and analyzes more 
samples for Campylobacter. Additionally, Agency responses to 
Campylobacter sample set failures will continue to follow procedures 
for Salmonella set failures, i.e. immediate follow-up testing for both 
organisms and, in most instances, Food Safety Assessments, regardless 
of whether an establishment adopts the NPIS or not.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization said that the risk 
assessment relies heavily on the data collected through the HIMP pilot 
and the microbiological verification testing programs. The comment 
asserted that, because these programs are not representative of all 
poultry establishments, data collected through these programs cannot be 
generalized to the entire poultry industry. The comment said that the 
microbiological verification testing programs were not designed to 
estimate the incidence of foodborne pathogens in meat and poultry 
products, nor were they designed to evaluate trends over time. The 
comment said that despite these limitations, the risk assessment has 
used these data to evaluate the public health impact of reassigning 
online inspectors to offline activities and has concluded that there is 
a public health benefit to doing so. The comment suggested that FSIS 
conduct a pilot study in a representative sample of poultry 
establishments to ensure that there is a public health benefit before 
implementing the proposed rule in all poultry establishments.
    Response: The assertion that the risk assessment relies on data 
that are not representative of all poultry establishments is not 
accurate. The risk assessment uses a volume-weighted model to account 
for the fact that the microbiological sampling is not proportional to 
volume. The risk assessment relies on Salmonella data collected from 
189 young chicken and 25 turkey slaughter establishments and on 
Campylobacter data collected from 181 young chicken and 65 young turkey 
slaughter establishments from July 2007 to September 2010. There are 20 
young chicken establishments and 5 turkey establishments operating 
under the HIMP inspection system.
    The risk assessment does not use the results of microbiological 
verification testing programs to estimate the prevalence of foodborne 
pathogens in poultry products or to evaluate trends over time, as 
suggested by the comment. The risk assessment uses FSIS microbiological 
verification testing results to analyze correlations between observed 
positive samples and offline inspection activities in young chicken and 
turkey slaughter establishments. These correlations are then used as 
one input to the model that characterizes changes in attributable human 
illness. The risk assessment showed that the greatest effect on 
Salmonella and Campylobacter prevalence and related illness would occur 
when inspection activities are concentrated on increased unscheduled 
offline procedures. Thus, FSIS disagrees with the comment's suggestion 
that the Agency should not implement the proposed rule until it 
conducts a pilot study in a representative sample of poultry 
establishments to ensure that there is a public health benefit. The 
Agency has ample evidence to support its conclusions that there is a 
solid basis to allow for the NPIS.
    Comment: Comments from a consumer advocacy group and a labor union 
said that the risk assessment is based on the assumption that the 
Agency's Salmonella verification data accurately reflect the 
performance of the establishments. The comments questioned whether the 
Agency's Salmonella verification results reflect the typical operating 
conditions in establishments. According to the comments, establishments 
know when FSIS is about to collect Salmonella verification samples 
because the test kit is mailed to the establishment right before the 
inspectors are to collect the samples. According to the comments, on 
days when inspectors collect samples for Salmonella testing, it is not 
unusual for the establishments to increase the concentration of 
available chlorine in the chiller. The comments asserted that the 
results of the risk assessment are not reliable because the predictions 
are not based on typical operating conditions in establishments. As a 
result, the comments said that FSIS's claims that the proposed rule may 
reduce the number of Salmonella and Campylobacter related illnesses are 
highly speculative and unlikely to be realized.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comments. The available data from 
FSIS's microbiological baseline studies and the Agency's Salmonella 
verification results indicate that FSIS's Salmonella verification 
sampling results do reflect typical operating conditions in the 
establishment.
    The Agency compared its most recent baseline data for Salmonella 
prevalence in young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments 
collected under its National Microbiological Data Collection Programs 
completed in 2008 and 2009, respectively, with the results of the 
Salmonella samples that it collected and analyzed under its HACCP 
Salmonella verification program for similar time periods. The estimated 
Salmonella prevalence associated with the two sets of data, when volume 
weighted and adjusted for other establishment characteristics, were not 
significantly different. FSIS has documented this conclusion in a 
series of Agency reports \5\ and written material associated with the 
Federal Register notice, ``New Performance Standards for Salmonella and 
Campylobacter in Young Chickens and Turkey Slaughter Establishments, 
Response to Comments and Announcement of Implementation Schedule,'' 
which announced the new Salmonella and Campylobacter performance 
standards (76 FR 15282).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/federal-register-notices/notices-2011; Salmonella 
and Campylobacter Notice and comparisons of HACCP and baseline 
report.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, under both HIMP and non-HIMP inspection systems, the 
protocol is for inspectors to randomly collect scheduled Salmonella 
verification samples and do not inform establishments when they collect 
the samples. FSIS uses the best available data and has taken steps to 
enhance data quality going forward. For example, FSIS authorizes its 
inspectors to request that the Agency schedule additional Salmonella 
verification sampling if they have evidence to demonstrate that an 
establishment altered its food safety system to coincide with the FSIS 
Salmonella verification sample set.\6\ Since FSIS implemented this 
policy, there have been 10 requests, from which 3 were found to be 
process changes during Salmonella sampling that justified an additional 
verification set. As of July 21, 2014, there have been no requests 
since December 2013. Thus,

[[Page 49582]]

FSIS has no basis to think that establishments are regularly making 
changes to their processes that would substantially affect the Agency's 
Salmonella verification results or, in turn, affect the conclusions of 
the risk assessment or the HIMP report.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ See FSIS Notice 66-12, which reissued the policy in former 
FSIS Notice 42-11 at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISNotices/66-12.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization said that the risk 
assessment's assumptions regarding unscheduled inspection procedures 
were based on procedures assigned under the PBIS. The comment said that 
now that FSIS has implemented the Public Health Inspection System 
(PHIS), the number of pre-operational sanitation procedures that 
inspectors conduct on a monthly basis was reduced to accommodate other 
inspection procedures under PHIS. According to the comment, the risk 
assessment is flawed in that it is not based on the inspection tasks 
that FSIS inspectors will actually be performing under PHIS.
    Response: The risk assessment is based on the data that were 
available at the time that FSIS conducted the analysis. At that time, 
the available data on offline inspection procedures reflected the 
number of such procedures scheduled under PBIS. The analysis of 
historical data that is presented in the risk assessment showed a 
relationship between lower Salmonella in young chicken and 
Campylobacter in turkey prevalence and the type of inspection 
activities that will be conducted more frequently under the NPIS. FSIS 
inspectors will continue to conduct both unscheduled and scheduled 
offline inspection activities under PHIS. Thus, the Agency thinks that 
the risk assessment's results are valid under PHIS.
    Comment: Two consumer advocacy organizations said that while the 
risk assessment details the uncertainty about the change in human 
illness rates when offline inspection activities are intensified, there 
is no comparable examination of the human illness changes from reducing 
online Federal inspection activities. One of the comments asserted that 
the risk assessment also did not fully consider the other changes to 
the inspection system that the Agency was proposing. This comment 
specifically noted that the risk assessment did not consider the 
increase in line speeds that had been proposed under the NPIS. Both 
comments asserted that the Agency should withdraw the rule until an 
analysis of all of the modifications and variables provides certainty 
that the inspection changes will not increase the risk to human health.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the suggestion that the Agency 
withdraw the rule until it conducts an additional analysis. The 
modifications noted by the comments were addressed in the HIMP pilot 
study. FSIS thinks that the performance of establishments under HIMP, 
as documented in the HIMP report, represents what would be achieved 
under the NPIS. These results support moving forward with this final 
rule.
    As under HIMP, under the NPIS, establishment employees will be 
responsible for conducting online sorting activities that are currently 
conducted by FSIS online inspectors. Based on the results of the HIMP 
pilot, FSIS thinks that establishment employees can perform these 
activities as effectively as FSIS inspectors do. To ensure that they 
do, FSIS inspectors in establishments operating under the NPIS will 
verify that establishment employees are effectively sorting carcasses 
on an ongoing basis. As they do under HIMP, VIs under the NPIS will 
collect samples and conduct verification checks and CIs will perform a 
visual inspection of each carcass at the end of the line before the 
chiller. If inspection personnel find food safety-related defects or 
the presence of persistent, unattended trim and dressing defects or 
removable animal diseases on carcasses and parts, FSIS will require 
that the establishment take appropriate action to ensure that 
establishment employees are effectively sorting carcasses and that the 
establishment is operating under conditions needed to produce safe, 
wholesome, and unadulterated product. Therefore, the Agency believes 
that establishment employees operating under FSIS inspection can 
effectively perform the sorting activities that they will be 
responsible for under the NPIS.
    FSIS also disagrees with the comment that suggested that the Agency 
conduct an additional risk assessment to estimate the effects of line 
speeds on food safety and public health. The focus of the risk 
assessment is to determine how performing a greater number of 
sanitation, sampling, and other offline activities in young chicken and 
turkey slaughter establishments might affect the number of human 
illnesses from Salmonella and Campylobacter. Although the regression 
analysis used in the risk assessment did include a categorical variable 
representing line speed as a structural (fixed effect) variable in the 
regression model that predicts prevalence, the results do not reflect 
measures that establishments typically implement in response to a given 
line speed in order to maintain process control.\7\ The Agency believes 
that the performance of establishments under HIMP, as documented in the 
HIMP report, represent what would be achieved under the NPIS at similar 
line speeds.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ See Appendix Tables 6-9 in the July 2014 Risk Assessment.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Comment: One comment said that the risk assessment concludes that 
more unscheduled offline procedures are the key to lowering Salmonella 
levels. The comment noted that the risk assessment did not consider 
whether this would be the case if inspectors also did not perform all 
of the scheduled food safety verifications, which were the only 
inspection tasks that inspectors performed more in HIMP establishments 
than in non-HIMP establishments. According to the comment, this is 
important because there are no scheduled offline food safety checks in 
the NPIS. The comment questioned the Agency's ``assum[ption] that 
offline inspection activities after the voluntary implementation of the 
new inspection system will parallel offline inspection activities in 
current HIMP establishments.''
    Response: Inspection procedures that will be performed in 
establishments operating under the NPIS will be determined by protocols 
currently required under PHIS. Under PHIS, inspectors perform both 
routine (scheduled) procedures and directed (unscheduled) procedures. 
Thus, inspectors assigned to establishments operating under the NPIS 
will perform both scheduled and unscheduled offline procedures, just as 
they currently do in both HIMP and non-HIMP establishments. These 
offline procedures include, verifying compliance with HACCP and 
Sanitation SOP requirements, performing carcass verification checks for 
septicemia/toxemia and visible fecal contamination, verifying sanitary 
dressing requirements, and collecting samples. The offline inspection 
activities conducted under the NPIS are intended to be the same rather 
than parallel the procedures of the existing inspection systems, 
yielding the same or better public health outcomes.

D. The New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS)

    In the preamble to the proposed rule, the Agency explained that, 
based on its experience under HIMP, it was proposing to establish the 
NPIS for young chickens and turkeys (77 FR 4421). The proposed rule 
would have eliminated SIS, NELS, NTIS, and the HIMP pilot and would 
have required

[[Page 49583]]

that all young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments operate 
either under the NPIS or the Traditional Inspection System, as modified 
in the proposed rule. The proposed rule would also have limited the 
number of online inspectors under Traditional Inspection to two for 
each evisceration line, with an exception for existing establishments 
that slaughter poultry other than young chickens and turkeys that are 
currently operating with more than two online inspectors.
    As discussed below, after considering the comments, FSIS has 
decided to modify the proposed rule to leave in place all of the 
existing poultry inspection systems. FSIS has also decided to allow the 
20 young chicken establishments that have been granted SIP waivers to 
operate under HIMP to continue to operate under a SIP waiver to run at 
line speeds of up to 175 bpm. However, FSIS will update these SIP 
waivers to remove aspects of HIMP that are inconsistent with the NPIS, 
such as the OCP performance standards. If an establishment operating 
under a SIP waiver described above goes out of business or decides to 
give up its waiver, FSIS will select another establishment to take its 
place. Thus, as under the current HIMP protocol, FSIS will continue to 
provide SIP waivers for up to 20 young chicken establishments to 
operate at 175 bpm. Under this final rule, the maximum line speed under 
the NPIS for turkeys will be 55 bpm, as was proposed. Thus, there is no 
need for the five HIMP turkey establishments to continue to operate 
under an updated SIP waiver because they will be able to achieve the 
same results by operating under the NPIS. FSIS has also decided that it 
will not limit the number of online inspectors under Traditional 
Inspection to two. Under this final rule, FSIS will continue to staff 
all establishments that do not choose to operate under the NPIS with 
the number of online inspectors currently assigned to the 
establishment.
    The preamble also explained that FSIS would allow establishments 
that slaughter classes of poultry other than young chickens and turkeys 
to operate under the NPIS under a waiver through the Salmonella 
Initiative Program (SIP). Under the SIP, meat and poultry slaughter 
establishments receive waivers of regulatory requirements on condition 
that they will conduct regular microbial testing and share the 
resulting data with FSIS.
1. General Comments on the NPIS
    Comment: Comments from producers of poultry products and trade 
associations representing the poultry industry expressed general 
support for the NPIS. Comments from some FSIS inspection personnel and 
some private citizens also expressed support for the NPIS. Some 
comments noted that the existing inspection systems were designed 
before FSIS implemented HACCP and were developed to identify visual 
defects that affect the quality of the product. The comments agreed 
that Agency resources are better spent performing activities that are 
more effective in ensuring food safety rather than performing functions 
that establishments can effectively accomplish under FSIS inspection by 
both VIs and CIs. Another comment said that the NPIS will give 
establishments the flexibility to investigate and develop new and more 
efficient technologies. The comment agreed with the Agency's conclusion 
that the new inspection system will improve the effectiveness of 
poultry slaughter inspection and overall food safety, remove 
unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation, and make better use of 
the Agency's resources. Another comment said that the NPIS is the next 
logical step in protecting public health through modern, science-based 
food safety technology.
    One comment that supported the NPIS proposal stated that it should 
be considered as part of a comprehensive food safety program that 
includes the recently implemented PHIS and performance standards for 
Salmonella and Campylobacter in broilers and turkeys. The comment said 
that the proposal should not be considered separate and apart from 
other regulatory food safety programs.
    Response: The Agency agrees with the thrust of these comments and 
concurs. Certainly the NPIS is part of the initiatives that contribute 
to the Agency's comprehensive food safety program. As noted by one 
comment, among these initiatives are the Salmonella and Campylobacter 
performance standards, the SIP, PHIS, as well as the NPIS.
    Comment: Comments from consumer advocacy organizations, labor 
unions, FSIS inspectors, public health organizations, animal welfare 
advocacy organizations, members of academia, human and worker rights 
advocacy organizations, and some private citizens objected to the NPIS 
for various reasons. Many of these comments objected to the NPIS 
because the commenters view the NPIS as a system that ``privatizes'' 
inspection by replacing USDA online inspectors in part with 
establishment employees. The petitions submitted in response to the 
proposed rule express these same views.
    Response: The NPIS will not privatize poultry inspection; this 
system makes Federal inspection of poultry more effective and carcass 
inspection by FSIS inspectors more efficient.
    Under the existing poultry slaughter inspection systems, FSIS 
inspectors check each carcass for defects and disease and direct 
establishment employees to take corrective actions. Under the NPIS, a 
well-trained FSIS CI will conduct a carcass-by-carcass inspection after 
establishment employees have sorted, trimmed, and conducted any 
necessary reprocessing. Thus, under the NPIS the CI will be able to 
conduct a more effective and efficient carcass-by-carcass inspection 
because carcasses will only be presented for inspection by the CI if 
they have been sorted by the establishment and are likely to pass 
inspection.
    As discussed earlier in this document, the VIs under the NPIS will 
conduct offline food safety-related inspection activities and will 
monitor and evaluate establishment process controls. The VIs will 
conduct carcass verification checks on carcass samples collected before 
the CI station to ensure that the establishment is effectively sorting 
carcasses and that it is producing products that comply with the 
Agency's zero visible fecal tolerance and other performance standards. 
VIs will also perform offline activities in addition to carcass 
verification checks, such as verifying compliance with sanitation SOPs, 
SPS, and HACCP regulatory requirements, and ensuring that the 
establishment is meeting all regulatory requirements and is effectively 
preventing contamination by enteric pathogens and fecal material 
throughout the entire slaughter and dressing process.
2. Scope of the NPIS
    Comment: One comment said that it interprets the proposed rule to 
limit establishments that slaughter mature fowl to operate under the 
NPIS only if they participate in the SIP. The comment noted that the 
only other alternative for establishments that slaughter mature fowl 
would be to operate under Traditional Inspection. The comment stated 
that FSIS should expand the scope of the NPIS to include classes of 
poultry other than young chickens and turkeys without additional 
qualifications. According to the comment, requiring that establishments 
that slaughter poultry classes other than young chickens and turkeys 
operate under a SIP waiver places them at a competitive disadvantage 
because they must incur costs associated with the

[[Page 49584]]

additional testing and data collection required under the SIP.
    Response: The NPIS was informed by the Agency's experience under 
the HIMP pilot, which, for poultry, was limited to young chicken and 
turkey slaughter establishments. Thus, the Agency would need additional 
data to support an expansion of the NPIS to classes of poultry other 
than young chickens and turkeys. As noted by the comment, FSIS would 
permit establishments that slaughter classes of poultry other than 
young chickens and turkeys to operate under the NPIS under a waiver 
through the SIP. At a later time, the Agency would consider the data 
collected in such poultry slaughter establishments operating under a 
SIP waiver to determine whether to expand the NPIS to other classes of 
poultry.
    Comment: Comments from two labor unions and a worker rights 
advocacy organization stated that although the proposed rule allows 
young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments to choose whether 
they will operate under the NPIS or under Traditional Inspection, there 
is no real choice because the Agency proposed to limit the number of 
online inspectors in establishments operating under Traditional 
Inspection to two. The comments noted that because most of the 
establishments that slaughter young chickens and turkeys are large 
automated operations, it is unlikely that these establishments will 
choose the traditional method of inspection with slower line speed and 
two inspectors per line. A comment from an individual questioned why 
establishments cannot choose to continue to operate under their current 
inspection systems. The comment stated that FSIS did not require that 
establishments operate under SIS, NELS, or NTIS when the Agency 
established those inspection systems. The comment said that allowing 
establishments to choose to keep their current inspection system gives 
them a true choice and maintains competition in the marketplace.
    A comment from a member of academia said that the proposed rule 
gives establishments that slaughter young chickens and turkeys the 
flexibility to decide whether the benefits of switching to the NPIS 
exceed their estimated costs to operate under such a system. The 
comment said that many very small establishments are likely to choose 
to remain under Traditional Inspection because, unlike larger 
establishments, the benefits of operating under the NPIS may not exceed 
their costs.
    Response: After careful consideration of these comments, FSIS has 
decided to revise the proposed rule to allow establishments that do not 
choose to operate under the NPIS to continue to operate under their 
current inspection system, i.e., SIS, NELS, NTIS, or Traditional 
Inspection. FSIS has also decided to allow the 20 young chicken 
establishments that have been granted SIP waivers to operate under HIMP 
to continue to operate under a SIP waiver to run at line speeds of up 
to 175 bpm. However, FSIS will update these SIP waivers to remove 
aspects of HIMP that are inconsistent with the NPIS, such as the OCP 
performance standards. If an establishment operating under a SIP waiver 
described above goes out of business or decides to give up its waiver, 
FSIS will select another establishment to take its place. Thus, as 
under the current HIMP protocol, FSIS will continue to provide SIP 
waivers for up to 20 young chicken establishments to operate at 175 
bpm. Under this final rule, the maximum line speed under the NPIS for 
turkeys will be 55 bpm, as was proposed. Thus, there is no need for the 
five HIMP turkey establishments to continue to operate under an updated 
SIP waiver.
    This final rule will give establishments the flexibility to operate 
under the system that is best suited to their operations. FSIS has also 
determined that allowing establishments to continue to operate under 
their current inspection system instead of converting to the modified 
Traditional Inspection with two online inspectors will create less 
disruption to the industry when FSIS begins to implement the NPIS. As 
noted by the comments, large establishments will likely choose to 
operate under the NPIS, while very small establishments are likely to 
choose to operate under the modified Traditional Inspection System. 
Some establishments may be interested in operating under the NPIS but 
are not prepared to make the capital investments needed to convert 
right away. Under this final rule, these establishments will have the 
option to switch to the NPIS at a later date without having to convert 
to a modified Traditional Inspection first.
3. Carcass Sorting and Inspection Under the NPIS
a. Carcass Sorting by Establishment Employees
    Comment: Several comments from consumer advocacy organizations, 
FSIS inspectors, labor unions, and private citizens objected to the 
NPIS's requirement that establishment employees properly sort carcasses 
before they are presented to the CI for inspection because the comments 
believe that establishment employees will miss many food safety and OCP 
defects. Many of the comments referenced the analysis conducted by the 
consumer advocacy organization that obtained FSIS inspection records 
from 14 establishments participating in the HIMP pilot presented in an 
earlier comment. According to the comments, the analysis shows that 
establishment employees missed food safety and wholesomeness defects at 
high rates.
    Another comment stated that it had secured affidavits from three 
USDA inspectors who have worked in HIMP establishments who report that 
because of excessive line speeds and lack of training, company 
employees routinely miss many food safety and wholesomeness defects. 
The comments stated that FSIS must more thoroughly evaluate the 
proposal to allow establishment employees to perform preliminary 
carcass sorting before it implements the NPIS.
    Response: The overall performance of HIMP establishments measured 
by the findings of offline inspections by VIs was as good as or better 
than non-HIMP establishments. Results from the VI inspections in HIMP 
establishments, which are conducted after establishment employees have 
completed the initial carcass sorting, show that the rates of carcasses 
with septicemia/toxemia and visible fecal contamination in HIMP 
establishments were very low, well below the levels set by the HIMP 
performance standards. These results were discussed in detail above. In 
addition, as discussed above, OCP defect rates identified on carcasses 
in HIMP establishments average about half the corresponding OCP HIMP 
performance standard. Thus, the data from the HIMP pilot show that 
establishment employees do effectively sort carcasses, dispose of 
carcasses that must be condemned, and conduct necessary trimming and 
re-processing activities before the carcasses are presented to the CI 
for online carcass inspection.
    Comment: Several comments from consumer advocacy organizations and 
private citizens noted that the NPIS does not require that 
establishment employees performing the sorting function receive 
training or prove proficiency in performing their duties. The comments 
noted that the 2001 GAO report on the HIMP pilot program criticized 
FSIS for not requiring that establishment employees complete training 
before assuming carcass sorting activities. The comments said that FSIS 
should accept the GAO recommendation for FSIS to develop a

[[Page 49585]]

training and certification program in conjunction with industry.
    Response: FSIS is not prescribing specific sorter training or 
certification. However, the Agency has developed guidance documents to 
assist establishments in training their sorters. This guidance is 
available on the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index. The guidance 
that the Agency has developed is based on the training that FSIS 
provides to online inspection personnel that are responsible for 
sorting carcasses under the existing inspection systems.
    FSIS agrees with the comment that training of sorters is important 
to ensure that they are able to properly perform their duties. Proper 
training is necessary if sorters are to make accurate decisions on how 
to address animal disease conditions and trim and dressing defects. 
Under the NPIS, if sorters do not make these decisions correctly, FSIS 
inspection personnel will take appropriate action such as stopping the 
production line, issuing NRs, and directing the establishment to reduce 
the line speed to ensure that the establishment is able to maintain 
process control, that establishment sorters are able to successfully 
perform their duties, and that FSIS CIs are able to conduct a proper 
inspection.
    Comment: A comment from an animal welfare advocacy organization 
said that by requiring establishment employees to sort out damaged 
carcasses before FSIS conducts online inspection, employees remove the 
evidence, i.e., the carcasses themselves, that birds may have died from 
causes other than slaughter. The comment asserted that this eliminates 
one means by which FSIS can verify that establishments are employing 
good commercial practices.
    Response: Inspectors in both HIMP and non-HIMP establishments 
verify that poultry is being slaughtered in accordance with good 
commercial practices. Compliance with these requirements ensures that 
poultry are handled humanely prior to FSIS online inspection. On a 
daily basis, FSIS offline inspectors observe operations in the 
receiving, hanging, stunning, bleeding, and pre-scalding areas in both 
HIMP and non-HIMP establishments. Compliance and enforcement actions 
are taken as warranted and necessary.
b. Online Carcass Inspection
    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations expressed concern 
that online inspectors will only look at the back of the bird under the 
NPIS. The petitions submitted in response to proposed rule also raised 
this issue. The comments stated that it is necessary to inspect the 
front and inside of the carcass in order to detect food safety defects. 
According the comments, under the NPIS, most inspectors will only look 
at the back of the bird as it quickly moves down the line and are 
therefore less likely to identify food safety defects in each carcass.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comments. The CI carcass 
presentation under the NPIS allows the CIs to focus their inspection on 
the same condemnable diseases and conditions that online inspectors 
focus on under the current inspection systems. Therefore, the Agency 
believes that the CI carcass presentation under the NPIS will allow the 
CI to conduct an effective online inspection to detect food safety 
defects.
    Under all four existing inspection systems, i.e., SIS, NELS, NTIS, 
and Traditional Inspection, FSIS online inspectors focus their 
inspection on identifying and condemning carcasses with septicemic and 
toxemic animal diseases and other condemnable conditions that cannot be 
corrected through trimming or reprocessing. Unlike septemia/toxemia, 
visible fecal material on the surfaces of a carcass is a food safety 
defect that can be corrected through reprocessing. Therefore, all 
poultry slaughter establishments have an online or offline reprocessing 
system for carcasses accidentally contaminated with fecal material.
    Under the current inspection systems, FSIS online inspectors do not 
issue NRs or condemn carcasses if they observe visible fecal 
contamination on the interior or exterior carcass surfaces. The Agency 
ensures that the establishment reprocesses the carcasses after online 
inspection to remove any fecal contamination before the carcasses enter 
the chiller. Unlike the NPIS, after such reprocessing, none of the 
current inspection systems provide for an additional online carcass 
inspection before the reprocessed birds enter the chiller.
    FSIS online CIs under the NPIS will continue to focus on 
identifying and condemning carcasses with septicemic and toxemic animal 
diseases and other condemnable conditions that cannot be corrected 
through trimming or reprocessing. In addition, while the Agency will 
continue to ensure that the establishments operating under the NPIS 
reprocess carcasses to remove any visible fecal contamination before 
the carcasses enter the chiller, the FSIS online CI will also inspect 
all of the carcasses after they have been sorted, washed, trimmed, and 
reprocessed, before the carcasses enter the chiller. If there is 
evidence of fecal material on a carcass, or that the carcass is 
affected with septicemia or toxemia, the CI will stop the line to 
prevent the affected carcass from entering the chiller. In addition, 
the CI will issue an NR because the establishment's procedures for 
preventing visible fecal contamination and for addressing carcasses 
with septicemia/toxemia were not effective.
    Poultry diseases and conditions, except for avian visceral 
leukosis, are readily identified by observing the carcass alone; 
pathogens require testing. Inspection of the outside of the carcass for 
signs of septicemia/toxemia is sufficient to determine whether the 
carcass and corresponding viscera must be condemned. Carcasses affected 
with systemic septicemic or toxemic conditions are darker in color due 
to dehydration or hemorrhaging and may be smaller or have less body fat 
due to inappetence or increased metabolic rate. Accordingly, inspection 
of the exterior of the carcass in accordance with the presentation 
required under the NPIS is sufficient for CIs to effectively identify 
and condemn carcasses affected with septicemia/toxemia, along with 
their corresponding viscera. As discussed elsewhere in this document, 
an FSIS offline inspector will determine the leukosis status of each 
flock slaughtered. Viscera in leukosis positive flocks will be 
inspected by FSIS inspectors.
    Thus, online inspection under the NPIS is at least as good, if not 
better, than online inspection under the current inspection systems. 
CIs under the NPIS will focus their inspection not only on detecting 
septicemic and toxemic animal diseases, but on detecting visible fecal 
contamination as well. In addition, as discussed throughout this 
document, the VI under the NPIS will conduct carcass verification 
checks on carcass samples collected before the CI station to ensure 
that the establishment is effectively sorting carcasses and that it is 
producing products that comply with the Agency's zero visible fecal 
tolerance and other performance standards. The VI and CI will work with 
the IIC to ensure that food safety defects or other conditions do not 
impair the CI's ability to effectively inspect each carcass.
    Comment: Several labor unions and consumer advocacy organizations 
expressed concern that the NPIS does not require that an inspector 
examine the viscera of each bird or be able to identify each bird's 
viscera for inspection. These comments asserted

[[Page 49586]]

that an examination of the viscera is important in determining whether 
or not a bird is diseased, contaminated, or otherwise adulterated.
    Response: All poultry diseases and conditions, except for avian 
visceral leukosis, are readily identified by observing the carcass 
alone. If the CI identifies a carcass with a condemnable condition, the 
viscera associated with that carcass must also be condemned. When a 
carcass is condemned, establishments that have maintained the identity 
of the corresponding viscera must dispose of that viscera as inedible 
or, where the identity has not been maintained, must dispose of all 
viscera harvested within the time period related to the condemned 
carcass. In either case, the CI's visual examination of each carcass 
also determines the disposition of the corresponding viscera. The CI's 
online carcass inspection serves as an inspection of the viscera.
    Additionally, FSIS inspectors conduct verification checks on all 
harvested giblets and necks and will apply the RTC standards under the 
NPIS. These inspection activities ensure that carcasses and parts, 
including viscera, have been inspected and are determined by FSIS 
inspectors to be not adulterated. Inspection procedures for avian 
visceral leukosis are discussed below.
    Comment: A few labor unions expressed concern that under the 
Traditional Inspection System retained by the proposed changes to part 
381, there is no guarantee that an inspector will be able to inspect a 
carcass along with its viscera. The unions stated that under the 
current inspection regulations, the carcass and its viscera are 
inspected together, as the viscera is required to be ``uniformly 
trailing or leading.'' One union was of the view that while proposed 9 
CFR 381.76(c) requires that the identity of each bird's viscera be 
``maintained in a manner satisfactory to the inspector until such 
inspection is made,'' this seems to depart from the current 
requirements in 9 CFR 381.76 because the ``new'' Traditional Inspection 
System does not ensure that the viscera and the corresponding carcasses 
can be inspected by a government inspector.
    Response: As discussed above, under this final rule, the 
regulations that prescribe requirements for the existing inspection 
systems will remain in place, with some modifications. Thus, the 
regulations for all inspection systems except the NPIS and HIMP will 
continue to require that carcasses and viscera be inspected together.
c. Inspection for Avian Visceral Leukosis
    As discussed in the preamble to the proposed rule, avian visceral 
leukosis is a rare manifestation of the viral disease leukosis that is 
not transmissible to humans (77 FR 4421-2). Avian visceral leukosis can 
only be detected by observing the viscera. Avian leukosis does not 
present a human health concern, but it may render poultry unwholesome 
or otherwise unfit for human food.
    As explained in the preamble to the proposed rule, it is common 
commercial practice to vaccinate each chicken flock for viral leukosis. 
On rare occasions, the vaccine is not effective. If it is not, visceral 
leukosis is present on a flock basis. Thus, under the NPIS, an offline 
inspector will observe the viscera of the first 300 birds slaughtered 
from each young chicken flock to determine whether the disease is 
present in the flock. FSIS has followed this practice in young chicken 
HIMP establishments, and it has been effective. In the HIMP report, 
FSIS explained that ``[i]t is FSIS's experience that when a flock has 
avian visceral leukosis, 10 to 15 percent of the birds in the flock 
have detectable leukosis lesions. For a flock in which 10% of the birds 
have detectable avian leukosis, a 300 bird sample provides a greater 
than 95% probability of detecting 22 or greater more birds with visible 
leukosis lesions'' (HIMP Report, p. 26). From these calculations, the 
Agency concluded that a 300-bird sample is adequate to detect avian 
leukosis in a flock.
    FSIS received several comments on the proposed avian visceral 
leukosis inspection procedures.
    Comment: A trade association and a poultry producer argued that 
FSIS should eliminate the proposed avian visceral leukosis check. 
According to the trade association, the check serves no meaningful 
public health purpose, is not scientifically sound, and is an outdated 
inspection approach. The trade association stated that when avian 
leukosis inspection procedures were originally designed, scientists did 
not know that the condition is caused by Marek's Disease and the Avian 
Leukosis Complex. According to the trade association, modern treatment 
and flock handling practices have effectively eliminated these diseases 
in commercial poultry operations. The comment stated that comprehensive 
literature reviews of these conditions, including a statement by the 
National Institutes of Health, have concluded that neither disease 
presents an apparent risk to public health. Additionally, the trade 
association stated that as early as 1984, Agency data has shown that 
avian visceral leukosis was present in only .017 percent of young 
chickens slaughtered, and that number is lower today.
    Response: As noted by the comment, avian visceral leukosis is not 
transmissible to humans and does not present a human health concern. 
However, it may render poultry unwholesome or otherwise unfit for human 
food. Thus, carcasses affected with the condition need to be condemned. 
Because avian visceral leukosis, if present, will be present throughout 
an entire flock, inspecting the first 300 birds of each flock is an 
appropriate and effective procedure for identifying the disease.
    Under the NPIS, an establishment must ensure that it can identify 
viscera and parts corresponding with each carcass. This final rule also 
requires that establishments operating under the NPIS provide a 
location along the production line at which an inspector can inspect 
for avian leukosis ``the first 300 carcasses of each flock together 
with associated viscera either uniformly trailing or leading, or 
otherwise identified with the corresponding carcass.''
    Comment: One labor union stated that FSIS is going to require that 
establishments notify the IIC when they intend to slaughter a new flock 
so that FSIS may inspect the viscera, but ``flock'' is not defined 
anywhere in the regulations. The union stated that FSIS's clarification 
of flock, ``In general, a flock constitutes birds raised under similar 
circumstances on the same premises'' in the preamble to the proposed 
rule is imprecise and the clarification is not included in the PPIA or 
Federal regulations. The union asserted that this lack of a definition 
of ``flock'' makes the process for detecting avian leukosis 
problematic.
    Response: Establishments are able to identify which birds belong to 
the same flock because birds from the same flock, i.e., birds that have 
been raised under similar circumstances on the same premises, arrive at 
slaughter together. Establishments operating under the NPIS will 
identify when a new flock arrives and are required to notify the IIC 
when they intend to slaughter a new flock.
d. Verification Inspection
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization and a trade association 
requested that FSIS clarify the role of the VI under the NPIS. The 
consumer advocacy organization requested that FSIS explain how the NPIS 
will enable

[[Page 49587]]

inspectors to conduct more food safety checks; whether more VIs will be 
assigned to each slaughter line; whether VIs will have to cover more 
than one slaughter line in an establishment; and whether VIs will have 
more than one establishment to cover on a given shift, similar to 
processing assignments.
    Response: There will be one CI and one VI assigned to each 
evisceration line per shift in establishments that chose to operate 
under the NPIS. As stated throughout this document, because the 
establishment's employees will be responsible for sorting carcasses, 
disposing of carcasses that must be condemned, and conducting any 
trimming or reprocessing activities before carcasses are presented to 
the online CI, the CI will be better able to focus on detecting 
carcasses with visible defects that impact food safety, such as visible 
fecal contamination and septicemia/toxemia.
    In addition to online inspection performed by CIs, VIs under the 
NPIS will conduct offline food safety-related inspection activities and 
will monitor and evaluate establishment process controls. The VIs will 
conduct carcass verification checks on carcass samples collected before 
the CI station to ensure that the establishment is effectively sorting 
carcasses and that it is producing products that comply with the 
Agency's zero visible fecal tolerance and other performance standards. 
As in HIMP, VIs under the NPIS will also conduct an array of other 
inspection activities that are important to ensure food safety, such as 
performing ante-mortem inspection; collecting samples for pathogen 
testing; verifying the effectiveness of the establishment's HACCP 
system; and verifying that the establishment is meeting sanitary 
dressing requirements. As noted throughout this document, the VI and CI 
will work with the IIC to ensure that food safety defects or other 
conditions do not impair the CI's ability to effectively inspect each 
carcass.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization argued that the NPIS 
decreases the protections that are part of the HIMP pilot program. The 
comment stated that under HIMP, VIs collect and examine 10-bird samples 
for food safety defects every hour, and examine at least two of the 10-
bird samples for wholesomeness defects. Because of the decreased role 
of online FSIS inspectors, the consumer advocacy organization stated 
that these 10 bird samples are the only hands-on verification of 
poultry carcasses under HIMP. This comment expressed concern that the 
NPIS does not provide for scheduled verification checks, i.e., food 
safety or wholesomeness checks, and the Agency has been unwilling to 
commit to any specific number of scheduled checks.
    Response: FSIS agrees with the consumer advocacy organization's 
assertion that the verification checks that VIs conduct for food safety 
defects under HIMP are necessary to ensure that establishment employees 
are effectively sorting carcasses and disposing of carcasses that must 
be condemned before the carcasses are presented to the CI. Effective 
carcass sorting by establishment employees is essential for the CI to 
conduct an efficient and effective online carcass-by-carcass 
inspection. Therefore, under the NPIS, VIs will continue to conduct 
carcass verification checks for food safety defects at a point in the 
slaughter process before the CI's online fixed position. VIs will also 
verify that establishments are effectively addressing OCP defects 
through review of establishment records documenting that the 
establishment is producing RTC poultry and through observation of 
carcasses when conducting verification checks.
    Because HIMP was a pilot study, the activities for offline VIs 
needed to be more controlled and prescriptive to ensure that the data 
collected from each establishment participating in the study were 
consistent. Under the NPIS, the carcass verification checks will be 
more risk-based to reflect the performance of the establishment. Thus, 
for some establishments, VIs may conduct more carcasses verification 
checks under the NPIS than they do under HIMP.
    Under the NPIS, the Agency will follow the same procedure used 
under HIMP to schedule VI carcass checks for food safety defects to 
ensure that VIs collect an appropriate number of verification samples 
to assess each establishment's performance under the NPIS. The Agency 
will monitor and analyze the ongoing results of its verification 
activities to assess the effectiveness of the establishment's carcass 
sorting and other process control procedures. The Agency will modify 
carcass verification checks and other verification activities as needed 
to respond to findings through the same data-driven process that FSIS 
uses for all in-plant verification.
    The inspection results recorded in PHIS provide FSIS with the 
information it needs to ensure that verification activities are 
targeted at identified public health risks. Under PHIS, FSIS is able to 
modify verification activities to respond to specific situations in 
individual establishments, to findings in a particular type of 
establishment, or across the entire regulated industry. In-plant 
inspection personnel use PHIS to initiate additional verification tasks 
if their inspection findings raise concerns about an establishment's 
compliance with regulatory requirements. FSIS managers use PHIS to 
initiate additional verification and sampling tasks in individual 
establishments in response to certain criteria, such as not meeting the 
Salmonella performance standard. They are also able to adjust the 
frequencies and priorities of verification tasks on a national level to 
quickly shift inspectors' focus to verify requirements where findings 
indicate problems may be occurring.
    Comment: One trade association requested that the Agency clarify 
where in the process a finding of fecal contamination would result in a 
regulatory noncompliance.
    Response: Similar to HIMP, under the NPIS, the VI will issue an NR 
for visible fecal contamination if the VI detects such contamination 
when performing carcass verification checks.
    In addition, this final rule requires that all poultry slaughter 
establishments develop, implement, and maintain written procedures to 
ensure that carcasses with visible fecal contamination do not enter the 
chiller and to incorporate these procedures into their HACCP systems. 
It also requires that all poultry slaughter establishments develop, 
implement, and maintain written procedures to prevent fecal 
contamination and contamination by enteric pathogens throughout the 
entire slaughter and dressing process and to incorporate these 
procedures into their HACCP systems. These requirements are intended to 
ensure that establishments are taking the necessary steps to prevent 
contamination throughout the process and not just cleaning up the birds 
at the end of the process.
    Accordingly, if the CI in an establishment operating under the NPIS 
observes a carcass with visible fecal contamination, in addition to 
stopping the line to prevent the carcass from entering the chiller, the 
CI will also issue an NR because the establishment's procedures for 
preventing visible fecal contamination were not effective. Because 
establishments are required to prevent visible fecal contamination 
throughout the entire process, the CI will issue the NR regardless of 
where the establishment's CCP for visible fecal contamination is 
located.
    In addition, under this final rule, FSIS inspectors under all 
poultry inspection systems will not just be inspecting at the end of 
the line to verify that the establishment's procedures for preventing 
visible fecal contamination

[[Page 49588]]

are effective. Inspection personnel will be conducting verification 
activities throughout the entire process to ensure that the 
establishment's procedures for preventing contamination by enteric 
pathogens and visible fecal material are effective.
e. RTC Poultry Definition Under the NPIS
    As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, removing the SIS, 
NELS, and NTIS would have included removing the FPS prescribed under 
these inspection systems (77 FR 4422). As discussed above, FSIS has 
modified the proposed rule to leave all existing inspection systems in 
place. Therefore, under this final rule, establishments that continue 
to operate under SIS, NELS, and NTIS will continue to be subject to the 
FPS.
    However, as was proposed, under the NPIS, the FPS will be replaced 
with a requirement that establishments document that the products 
resulting from their slaughter operations meet the definition of ready-
to-cook (RTC) poultry. As explained in the preamble to the proposed 
rule, establishments operating under the NPIS would (like HIMP 
establishments) have the flexibility to design and implement measures 
to address OCP defects that are suited to their operations (77 FR 
4423). FSIS received several comments from trade associations, consumer 
advocacy organizations, and industry members on the RTC poultry 
standard. Comments from members of the poultry industry and a trade 
association expressed support for the RTC poultry standard and agreed 
that establishments should have the flexibility to design and implement 
measures to address OCP defects that will be most effective in their 
operations. Other comments raised various issues that are discussed 
below.
    Comment: Comments from consumer advocacy organizations suggested 
that the RTC standard is not stringent enough and that the lack of 
enforceable OCP goals will make it difficult for FSIS to enforce the 
RTC standard. The comments said that in contrast to the HIMP inspection 
system, the Agency is not committing to any specific level of scheduled 
VI verifications for OCP defects under the NPIS. One comment said that 
the Agency should have a robust sampling scheme to deal with OCP 
defects. Another comment maintained that without specific standards for 
ensuring that OCP defects are promptly identified and addressed, it 
will be difficult to compare establishments across the industry and 
trace the causes of systematic defects.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comments that said that the RTC 
standards are not stringent. The Agency believes that it can 
effectively address OCP defects by requiring that establishments 
operating under the NPIS maintain records to document that the products 
resulting from their slaughter operations meet the RTC definition. 
However, to address concerns expressed by the consumer advocacy 
organizations, the Agency is making clear in this final rule that these 
records are subject to review and evaluation by FSIS inspectors.
    As noted above, the HIMP Report found that for the two-year period 
from CY 2009 through 2010, HIMP establishments maintained OCP defect 
levels that average about half the OCP performance standards derived 
from the performance of non-HIMP establishments. Because the data show 
that establishments operating under the HIMP inspection system 
performed well in controlling OCP defects, FSIS tentatively concluded 
that it was not necessary to adopt prescriptive OCP requirements under 
the NPIS (77 FR 4423). Instead the Agency proposed to require that 
establishments operating under the NPIS document that the products 
resulting from their slaughter operations meet the definition of RTC 
poultry. Although the NPIS will give establishments the flexibility to 
design and implement effective measures for addressing OCP defects, 
establishments will still be responsible for ensuring that the poultry 
products resulting from their slaughter operations meet the RTC 
definition.
    As was proposed, under this final rule, FSIS will verify that an 
establishment operating under the NPIS is producing RTC poultry by 
reviewing the establishment's records and observing carcasses as part 
of their inspection activities. This approach is consistent with the 
Agency's view that the verification activities performed by FSIS 
inspectors should be predominantly focused on activities that are more 
important in ensuring food safety, but that it is also necessary to 
verify compliance with requirements that provide non-food safety 
protections to consumers.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ See FSIS Directive 7000.1, ``Verification of Non-Food Safety 
Consumer Protection Regulatory Requirements,'' December 11, 2006 
(http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/aa15d83f-cd09-4553-a705-2e3a0eb94e5d/7000.1.pdf?MOD=AJPERES).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For their record reviews, FSIS inspectors will verify that 
establishments operating under the NPIS have written criteria for 
determining whether carcasses meet the RTC definition and that they are 
documenting that the poultry products resulting from their slaughter 
operations meet these criteria before packaging or further processing 
that will conceal the defect. FSIS expects that the establishment will 
maintain records that, at a minimum, include the following information:
     The records system that the establishment uses to document 
that it is producing RTC poultry. For example, an establishment may use 
statistical process control charts, HACCP records, or other 
documentation.
     The points in the operation where the establishment 
monitors carcasses to determine whether they meet the RTC definition 
and records the results of its monitoring activities. For example, an 
establishment may conduct monitoring and recording the results at a 
pre-chill and a post-chill station.
     The frequency with which the establishment conducts 
monitoring activities. The records should specify how often the 
establishment monitors carcasses per line per shift. For example, an 
establishment may conduct and document its monitoring activities at 
least every two hours per line per shift at the pre-chill location and 
at least twice per shift per line for post-chill location.
     The definitions of the OCP non-conformances or processing 
and trim defects that for which the establishment is monitoring. For 
example, the establishment may be monitoring carcasses for processing 
and trim non-conformances as specified in the current FPS regulations, 
for trim and processing OCP defects specified under the HIMP OCP 
performance standards, or defects as defined in a published study or a 
study that the establishment conducted itself. If the establishment 
references a study, it should give a brief description of the study and 
have the supporting information on file.
     The criteria that the establishment uses to determine that 
the products resulting from its slaughter operation meet the RTC 
definition. For example, an establishment may follow the subgroup 
limits for non-conformances and defects in the current FPS regulations, 
the trim and processing defect levels for the HIMP OCP performance 
standards, or it may determine the upper limits for non-conformances 
using a statistical process control program.
     The corrective actions that the establishment will take if 
the levels of defects and non-conformances exceed its evaluation 
criteria for RTC poultry.
    As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, poultry carcasses 
that

[[Page 49589]]

meet the FPS under SIS and NELS, or that meet the OCP performance 
standards under HIMP, are ``suitable for cooking without the need for 
further processing,'' and as such, meet the RTC poultry definition. 
Therefore, establishments operating under the NPIS that adopt the FPS 
or the OCP HIMP performance standards as their criteria for determining 
whether they are producing RTC poultry will meet the regulatory 
requirements if: (1) They can document that the products resulting from 
their slaughter operations consistently meet these standards and (2) 
FSIS inspectors do not observe persistent, unattended defects on the 
products resulting from the establishment's slaughter operations. 
Establishments that adopt criteria other than the FPS or the HIMP OCP 
standards must have documentation to demonstrate how they will use 
these criteria to demonstrate that the products resulting from their 
slaughter operations meet the RTC poultry definition.
    In addition to record reviews, FSIS inspectors will verify that 
establishments operating under the NPIS are producing RTC poultry by 
visually observing carcasses as part of their inspection activities. 
The presence of persistent, unattended trim and dressing defects on 
carcasses at the end of the process would indicate that the 
establishment is not producing RTC poultry. It may also indicate a 
general lack of control in an establishment's overall slaughter and 
dressing process. Thus, if inspectors observe persistent, unattended 
defects, FSIS will require that the establishment take appropriate 
actions to ensure that its process is under control and that it is 
operating under conditions necessary to produce safe, wholesome, and 
unadulterated RTC products. If inspection personnel through their 
record review or direct observation of carcasses find evidence that an 
establishment is producing poultry that does not meets the RTC 
definition, the IIC will be authorized to take appropriate action to 
ensure that the establishment remedies the defects, including requiring 
that the establishment slow the line speed.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations said that if FSIS 
does not establish specific OCP standards for the NPIS, consumers will 
have no assurances that poultry establishments operating under the NPIS 
are producing poultry in a uniform manner and adequately removing 
carcasses defects. One comment noted that there is an increasing market 
for chicken parts and processed chicken, which enables companies to 
profit from unwholesome product because consumers have no way to 
determine that the product has defects. As an example, the comment 
noted that consumers cannot recognize unwholesome tissue in breaded, 
battered, or marinated products.
    Response: Under the NPIS, establishments will be required to 
document that the products resulting from their slaughter operations 
meet the RTC poultry definition. Thus, because the RTC standard applies 
to carcasses and parts at the end of the slaughter process, 
establishments will be required to ensure and document that all 
carcasses and parts meet the RTC definition before the establishment 
conducts any additional processing to produce battered, marinated, or 
other processed products.
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations noted that the 2001 
GAO report on HIMP recommended that FSIS require establishments to 
implement statistical process controls (SPC), and that FSIS should 
monitor the efficacy of these systems. The comments noted that while 
FSIS encourages establishments to implement SPC, the proposed rule does 
not require it.
    Response: FSIS agrees that SPC systems are effective tools for 
establishments to use to manage and control their production. Some HIMP 
establishments currently use SPC systems to monitor their compliance 
with the HIMP OCP performance standards. The Agency believes that most 
establishments operating under the NPIS will choose to use SPC systems 
to allow them to document that their poultry products meet the RTC 
definition. However, instead of mandating the use of SPC, the Agency 
has decided to allow establishments operating under the NPIS to 
implement the process controls that they have determined will best 
produce RTC poultry that is wholesome and not adulterated. The Agency 
believes that it will be more effective and more consistent with HACCP 
requirements to provide each establishment operating under the NPIS the 
flexibility to determine how best to meet the RTC requirement within 
the context of its production environment while holding the 
establishment to the Salmonella and Campylobacter performance 
standards.
    Comment: Comments from poultry producers and trade associations 
recommended that the Agency allow establishments to apply the RTC 
standard at any appropriate location at or before the point of 
packaging or clarify that the Agency intended this flexibility if that 
is the case. One comment from a trade association said that because an 
establishment may apply processes targeting RTC criteria and other 
quality issues at various locations after the chiller, it is not 
appropriate for the CI to inspect for RTC criteria before the chiller. 
The comment noted that the RTC standard addresses quality not food 
safety issues, so there is no food safety concern associated with birds 
that may not yet meet the RTC standard entering the chiller. The 
comment said that a bird with bruising, for example, will not 
``contaminate'' other birds in the chiller. The comment said that the 
CI should not be distracted from inspecting for food safety issues with 
the additional task of checking for RTC criteria.
    Response: This final rule maintains the current requirements that 
all poultry slaughter establishments prepare all eviscerated carcasses 
as RTC poultry.\9\ This final rule also requires that establishments 
operating under the NPIS maintain records to document that the products 
resulting from their slaughter operations meet the definition of RTC 
poultry. Thus, like the FPS, the RTC definition applies to the products 
at the end of the slaughter process. However, if the CI or the VI 
observe the presence of persistent unattended defects before the 
chiller when performing online inspection or conducting offline 
verification checks, FSIS will address the effectiveness of an 
establishment's sorting process and its ability to maintain process 
control. The Agency will require that the establishment operating under 
the NPIS take appropriate actions to ensure that it is producing safe, 
wholesome products that meet the definition of RTC poultry.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ See 9 CFR 381.76(a) under the current regulation and this 
final rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Comment: One consumer advocacy organization agreed that requiring 
that establishments operating under the NPIS maintain documentation to 
demonstrate that they are meeting the RTC standard is beneficial but 
stated that it did not have enough information on the difference 
between the FPS and the RTC standard to make a specific comment. 
Another comment requested that FSIS retain the existing FPS as a safe-
harbor for establishments that choose to continue assessing compliance 
with the RTC standard prior to chilling.
    Response: RTC poultry is any slaughtered poultry free from 
protruding pinfeathers and vestigial feathers (hair or down) from which 
the head, feed crop, oil gland, trachea, esophagus, entrails, and lungs 
have been removed, and from which the mature reproductive organs and 
kidneys may have been removed, and with or without

[[Page 49590]]

giblets, and which is suitable for cooking without need for further 
processing (9 CFR 381.1). All poultry slaughter establishments are 
required to prepare all eviscerated carcasses as RTC poultry (9 CFR 
381.76(a)). Carcasses affected with removable animal diseases or that 
contain numerous trim and dressing defects are not ``suitable for 
cooking without the need for further processing,'' and do not meet the 
RTC poultry definition.
    As discussed above, establishments operating under the NPIS will 
have the flexibility to design and implement measures to address OCP 
defects that are best suited to their operations, and certainly 
establishments may adopt procedures to address OCP defects based on the 
existing FPS in order to meet the RTC poultry standard.
4. Facilities Requirements and Staffing for the NPIS
a. Facilities Requirements
    Comment: One industry member suggested that establishments 
operating under that NPIS be permitted to place the carcass inspection 
station at any location before the chiller. The comment stated that 
establishments have many reasons for placing carcass inspection 
stations at locations other than immediately before the chiller. The 
industry member believed that a facility-specific approach would be 
more successful in ensuring food safety.
    An industry member expressed concern that because of space or line-
layout constraints, establishments may not be able to place a carcass 
inspection station meeting FSIS requirements immediately before the 
chiller. According to this industry member, some equipment cannot be 
moved, or if it can be moved, it will result in higher costs and will 
be less effective elsewhere on the line.
    Response: The CI inspection station needs to be located at the end 
of the processing line immediately before the chiller to allow the CI 
to ensure that carcasses affected with food safety defects do not enter 
the chiller and to ensure that the establishment's procedures for 
preventing visible fecal contamination are effective. Thus, FSIS 
disagrees and concludes that a prescribed location for the CI station 
best ensures effective inspection and food safety.
    Comment: Two comments from inspectors recommended that FSIS modify 
the proposed rule to require that the online CI's platform be height-
adjustable. The comments stated that, while handling of every carcass 
is not required under the NPIS, online inspectors will still be 
required to visually inspect each carcass and that the ideal platform 
height for one inspector may not be ideal for another significantly 
taller or shorter inspector. One comment believed that an adjustable 
platform will benefit inspectors that wear corrective lenses.
    Response: FSIS has considered the comments and agrees that the CI 
inspection platform should be height-adjustable to ensure that CIs are 
able to conduct an effective visual inspection of each carcass. The 
Agency is amending the proposed facilities requirements to require that 
the CI inspection platform under the NPIS be height-adjustable. Most 
establishments that choose to operate under the NPIS will likely move 
their present adjustable inspector platform to the new CI location when 
they convert to the NPIS. Other establishments may consolidate lines 
and therefore will have extra adjustable inspector platforms when they 
convert to the NPIS.
    Comment: One trade association stated, to be consistent with HACCP, 
FSIS should remove the requirement in proposed 9 CFR 381.36(c)(4) for a 
``trough or other similar drainage facility'' extending beneath the 
conveyor at all places where processing occurs. According to the trade 
association, drainage issues are covered by the general requirement for 
establishments' to maintain sanitary conditions.
    Response: FSIS believes that requiring that establishments provide 
a trough or other drainage and collection facility beneath the conveyor 
at all places is necessary to maintain sanitary conditions in the 
establishment. The existing regulations that prescribe facilities 
requirements for the SIS, NELS and NTIS provide for a trough or other 
drainage facility under the conveyor.
b. Staffing
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization expressed concern that 
there will be fewer FSIS inspectors in establishments operating under 
the NPIS than there are in establishments operating under the HIMP 
pilot because, according to the comment, FSIS has refused to commit to 
maintaining similar, specific levels of food safety activities under 
the NPIS. The comment asserted that the Agency has already allowed 
staffing levels to decrease in some HIMP establishments.
    Another consumer advocacy organization stated that the proposed 
rule should include language regarding the number of full-time VIs and 
CIs needed in establishments operating under the NPIS. The comment said 
that FSIS should use production volume, along with other risk factors 
to determine the number of inspectors needed at each facility, and that 
the number of inspectors assigned to a facility be reviewed routinely 
based on the establishment's performance.
    Response: The staffing for each evisceration line under the NPIS 
will remain the same as the staffing for each line under HIMP. As in 
HIMP, each establishment operating under the NPIS will have one VI and 
one CI per line per shift, as well as an IIC. While the verification 
activities of the VI under the NPIS may not necessarily be identical to 
those under HIMP, a VI will continue to be assigned to each line so 
there will be no net reduction in the level of verification inspection. 
FSIS District Managers and staff conduct periodic reviews of in-plant 
staffing requirements to ensure appropriate coverage of frontline 
inspection activities. This is already a standard practice and will not 
change under the NPIS.
5. Line Speeds Under the NPIS
    Based on FSIS's experience under HIMP, the Agency proposed that the 
maximum line speeds for young chicken establishments operating under 
the NPIS be 175 bpm and that maximum line speeds for turkey slaughter 
establishments be 55 bpm (77 FR 4423). However, the Agency's experience 
from the HIMP pilot has shown that HIMP establishments operate with an 
average line speed of 131 bpm, and that, although they are authorized 
to do so, most of the young chicken HIMP establishments do not operate 
line speeds at 175 bpm. As noted above, the maximum line speed 
permitted under the current poultry inspection systems is 140 bpm under 
the SIS for young chickens, and there are many young chicken 
establishments that do not operate at the maximum line speeds 
authorized under the current inspection systems. Establishments 
determine their line speeds based on their equipment and facilities, 
bird size and flock conditions, and their ability to maintain process 
control when operating at a given line speed.
    Regardless of line speed, HIMP and NPIS do not require that 
establishments configure their evisceration lines to accommodate more 
than one online carcass inspector. Establishments operating under the 
NPIS will have greater control over their lines and greater flexibility 
over their production process. For example, consistent with HIMP, 
establishments operating under the NPIS will have the flexibility to 
reconfigure and consolidate lines if they determine that they need more 
space to

[[Page 49591]]

conduct other activities in their facilities. In addition, because only 
one online inspector is required at the end of the line, establishments 
operating under the NPIS will not need to adjust their production based 
on the availability of FSIS inspection personnel to be stationed 
online. Establishment employees will staff the lines to perform the 
online sorting activities. These establishments will also have greater 
flexibility to vary their line speeds within the limits established by 
this rule or increase production to respond to customer demands.
    In addition to having more control over their production process, 
establishments operating under the NPIS will also have more 
opportunities for innovation and greater flexibility to develop and 
implement new technologies. Currently, if an establishment operating 
under the existing inspection systems wants to use new technologies for 
evisceration or for sorting, the establishment must work directly with 
the Agency to accommodate FSIS's online slaughter inspection 
methodologies. Doing so takes time and can become an obstacle to 
innovation. Under the NPIS, establishments will have direct control of 
the sorting process within their facilities and therefore will have the 
flexibility to implement and assess the technologies they think are 
beneficial to their operations and food safety.
    As will be mentioned in the section on ``Implementation of the 
NPIS,'' some comments from consumer advocacy organizations suggested 
that instead of allowing establishments to adopt all of the changes in 
the proposed NPIS at once, FSIS should implement the NPIS in phases to 
ensure that establishments maintain process control as each change is 
adopted. However, because establishments operating under the NPIS will 
have greater flexibility to adopt new technologies, it would be 
difficult to develop an implementation strategy to assess each change 
that establishments make to convert to the NPIS that could be applied 
consistently across the industry.
    After considering the comments, FSIS agrees that it is important to 
assess establishments' ability to maintain process control as they 
implement changes to operate under the NPIS. Data from the HIMP pilot 
demonstrate that establishments operating under HIMP are able to 
maintain process control at line speeds of up to 175 bpm. However, as 
noted above, although they are authorized to do so, most HIMP 
establishments do not operate at 175 bpm. The average line speed under 
HIMP is 131 bpm. It is also the case that non-HIMP establishments have 
been operating successfully at line speeds of 140 bpm or less.
    Therefore, under this final rule, the maximum line speed for young 
chickens will be 140 bpm for establishments operating under the NPIS 
instead of 175 bpm, as was proposed. Limiting the maximum line speed 
for young chickens under the NPIS to 140 bpm also addresses the concern 
raised in some of the industry comments that establishments permitted 
to implement the NPIS first during a staggered implementation will be 
able to increase their line speeds while other establishments will be 
economically harmed as they wait for their implementation date.
    After the NPIS has been fully implemented on a wide scale, and the 
Agency has gained at least a year of experience under the new system, 
FSIS intends to assess the impact of changes adopted by establishments 
operating under the NPIS by evaluating the results of the Agency's 
Salmonella and Campylobacter verification sampling, reviewing 
documentation on establishments' OCP performance, and other relevant 
factors. FSIS will consider these results in assessing whether 
establishments operating under the NPIS have implemented measures that 
are effective in maintaining process control.
    The maximum line speed for turkey establishments will remain at 55 
bpm, as was proposed, because this is similar to the current maximum 
line speed of 51 bpm authorized under the NTIS. The comments on line 
speeds under the NPIS were also directed at the proposed 175 bpm line 
speeds for young chickens.
    FSIS has decided to allow the 20 young chicken establishments that 
have been granted a SIP waiver to operate under HIMP to continue to 
operate line speeds at a maximum of 175 bpm. As discussed above, FSIS 
will update these SIP waivers to remove aspects of HIMP that are 
inconsistent with the NPIS, such as the OCP performance standards. Data 
from the HIMP pilot demonstrate that HIMP establishments operating at 
the line speeds authorized under HIMP were capable of consistently 
producing safe, wholesome, and unadulterated product, and that they 
consistently met pathogen reduction and other performance standards. 
Additionally, once the NPIS is fully implemented at most 
establishments, data from these establishments can be used to compare 
against data from the young chicken establishments operating under the 
updated SIP waivers.
    The comments on the NPIS maximum line speeds that would have been 
permitted under the proposed rule raised a number of issues. The issue 
that FSIS received the most comments on was the potential effects that 
increased line speeds may have on the health and safety of workers in 
poultry slaughter establishments. Because the issues raised by these 
comments do not involve the technical aspects of the NPIS, FSIS will 
address them in a separate section of this document.
a. Line Speed and Process Control
    Comment: Comments from members of the poultry industry and trade 
associations representing members of the poultry industry supported 
faster line speeds under the NPIS. One comment stated that the industry 
has made technological advancements and has produced scientific data to 
demonstrate that establishments can operate at faster line speeds and 
still maintain food safety. According to the comment, since HIMP's 
inception, establishments operating under HIMP have demonstrated that 
safe product could be produced at faster line speeds, as evidenced by 
pathogen testing data for these establishments.
    Some trade associations went further and suggested that the Agency 
remove the maximum line speed limits and allow establishments to 
determine their line speeds based on their ability to maintain process 
control while ensuring inspection of each carcass. The comments said 
that this would provide options for future changes as both Agency and 
industry technology evolve and food safety challenges change. According 
to one comment, limits on maximum line speeds could limit an 
establishment's future investment decisions and affect hiring 
practices.
    Response: As discussed above, under this final rule the maximum 
line speed for young chickens will be 140 bpm instead of 175 bpm, as 
was proposed. FSIS has determined that maintaining a maximum line speed 
of 140 bpm under the NPIS will allow the Agency to assess the impact of 
the various changes and new technologies adopted by establishments 
operating under the NPIS. As noted above, establishments operating 
under the HIMP pilot may continue to operate under the line speeds 
authorized under HIMP.
b. Line Speeds and Online Carcass Inspection
    Comment: Several labor unions, consumer advocacy organizations, and 
members of academia stated the maximum allowable line speeds that had 
been proposed under the NPIS

[[Page 49592]]

would be too fast to allow the CI to conduct an adequate online 
inspection. The petitions submitted in response to the proposed rule 
also raised this issue.
    Comments from a labor union, members of academia, and a private 
citizen stated that while the most significant food safety concern is 
microbiological contamination that is not visible to the naked eye, the 
visual inspection of birds for signs of disease, remaining feathers, 
and fecal matter remains critical to ensure that product is safe and 
wholesome. The comments stated that the faster line speeds that would 
have been permitted under the proposed NPIS would make it difficult for 
the CI to perform this task.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comments. Although the maximum 
line speeds allowed under the NPIS will be 140 bpm for young chickens, 
the Agency's experience under HIMP shows that CIs in HIMP 
establishments are able to conduct an effective online inspection of 
each carcass when operating under the line speeds authorized under 
HIMP, i.e., up to 175 bpm for young chickens and 55 bpm for turkeys.
    Since 2007, HIMP young chicken establishments have been authorized 
to operate at line speeds of up to 175 bpm depending on their ability 
to demonstrate consistent process control. Experience during the HIMP 
pilot has shown that HIMP establishments operate with an average line 
speed of 131 bpm, and, although they are authorized to do so, most of 
the young chicken HIMP establishments do not operate line speeds at 175 
bpm. As stated throughout this document, establishments determine their 
line speeds based on their equipment and facilities, bird size and 
flock conditions, and their ability to maintain process control when 
operating at a given line speed. In addition, similar to HIMP, line 
speeds under the NPIS will depend on the number of employees that the 
establishments hire and train to perform sorting activities. Although 
the maximum line speed for young chickens under the NPIS will be 140 
bpm instead of 175, as was proposed, FSIS believes that establishments 
choosing to operate under the NPIS will determine their line speeds 
based on the same factors that establishments considered when setting 
line speeds under HIMP for the past 15 years.
    Furthermore, as noted throughout this document, under the NPIS, the 
VI and the CI will work with the IIC to ensure that the food safety 
defects or other conditions do not impair the CI's ability to conduct 
an inspection of each carcass. The VI and CI will notify the IIC 
whenever circumstances indicate a loss of process control, e.g., if the 
VI observes the presence of persistent unattended defects or has 
evidence to indicate that the establishment is having difficulty 
maintaining sanitary conditions, or if the CI finds multiple carcasses 
with defects. The IIC will take appropriate remedial actions and will 
be authorized to and may require that the establishment slow the line 
speed. Under all of the poultry inspection systems, the IIC is 
authorized to direct establishments to operate at a reduced line speed 
when in his or her judgment the online inspector cannot perform an 
adequate carcass-by-carcass inspection because of the health conditions 
of a particular flock, or because of factors that may indicate a loss 
of process control.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ See FSIS Notice 64-13, ``Inspection Responsibilities and 
Authorities for Reducing Slaughter or Evisceration Line Speed'' at: 
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/8612aba6-8f99-47c0-b024-1e33b3627a84/64-13.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CONVERT_TO=url&CACHEID=8612aba6-8f99-47c0-b024-1e33b3627a84.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Comment: A comment from members of academia said that between 
routine cleanings of equipment, pathogens introduced by infected and 
colonized birds can spread throughout a processing facility, 
contaminating surfaces, equipment and workers' personal protective 
equipment. The comment noted that studies have shown that Salmonella 
species, along with other human pathogens, may survive the various 
process controls and decontamination methods used in U.S. processing 
facilities. The comment stated that because of the faster line speeds 
that FSIS had proposed for the NPIS, more carcasses would be processed 
in each facility per shift. According to the comment, this may increase 
the likelihood that human pathogens will be introduced into the 
processing environment and that a greater number of carcasses will 
become cross-contaminated following the introduction of an infected and 
colonized bird. The comment did not submit studies or other evidence to 
support this view.
    Response: As explained above, the maximum line speed for the NPIS 
established in this final rule will be 140 bpm, which is also the 
maximum line speeds permitted under the current SIS inspection system. 
Thus, the comment that faster line speeds under the NPIS may contribute 
to the introduction and spread of pathogens in the processing 
environment is no longer applicable to this final rule.
    Regardless of line speed, as discussed in more detail under the 
section of this document on ``Changes that Affect All Establishments 
that Slaughter Poultry Other than Ratites,'' in addition to proposing 
the NPIS for young chickens and turkeys, FSIS also proposed to require 
that all poultry slaughter establishments develop, implement, and 
maintain, as part of their HACCP systems, written procedures to prevent 
contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens and fecal 
material throughout the entire slaughter and dressing process. At a 
minimum, these procedures must include sampling and analysis for 
microbial organisms pre- and post-chill to monitor process control for 
enteric pathogens. FSIS also proposed to require that establishments 
maintain daily records sufficient to document the implementation and 
monitoring of their process control procedures.
    The records that will be required under this rule, including the 
records of the establishment's testing results, will provide 
establishments and FSIS with ongoing information on the effectiveness 
of the establishment's process controls. These records will also enable 
establishments to identify situations associated with an increase in 
microbial levels so that they can take the necessary corrective actions 
to prevent further potential contamination. Additionally, the new 
testing requirements will ensure that establishments are able to 
provide comprehensive, objective evidence to demonstrate that they are 
effectively preventing carcasses from becoming contaminated with 
pathogens before and after they enter the chiller.

E. Implementation of the NPIS

1. Background
    In the Federal Register document that extended the comment period 
for the proposed rule, the Agency provided additional information on 
proposed implementation of the NPIS to solicit more focused comments on 
the issue (77 FR 24876). In that document, FSIS explained that it 
proposed to provide a time period in which all young chicken and turkey 
slaughter establishments would have an opportunity to contact the 
Agency to indicate whether they were interested in operating under the 
NPIS. The Agency explained that those establishments that choose to 
operate under the NPIS would inform the Agency when they would wish to 
begin implementing the NPIS in their establishment. When it issued the 
document, FSIS had tentatively decided that establishments would have 
six

[[Page 49593]]

months to decide whether they would operate under the NPIS and up to 
three years to switch to the new system.
    FSIS received comments on its proposed implementation plan from 
members of the poultry slaughter industry, trade associations 
representing the industry, and consumer advocacy organizations. The 
Agency considered these comments in developing the implementation 
strategy discussed below.
2. Implementation Strategy
    Under FSIS's final implementation strategy for the NPIS, all young 
chicken and turkey slaughter establishments will initially have six 
months from the date of publication of this final rule to notify their 
District Office in writing if they intend to operate under the NPIS. If 
an establishment does not give its District Office written notification 
of its intent before the end of the initial 6-month period, the 
establishment will be deemed to have selected to continue to operate 
under its current inspection system for purposes of the initial 
implementation. FSIS encourages establishments to notify their District 
Office as soon as possible after publication of this final rule of 
whether they intend transition to the NPIS during the initial 
implementation period and, if so, when they will be ready to transition 
to the NPIS. Implementation will not take place at all eligible 
establishments at the same time. It will be phased in over time to 
ensure proper FSIS inspection force readiness to successfully implement 
the NPIS.
    As soon as this final rule publishes in the Federal Register, and 
establishments have started to notify FSIS of their intent regarding 
the NPIS, FSIS will begin selecting establishments to switch to the 
NPIS. FSIS is using a computerized ranking system to determine the 
schedule of establishments for NPIS implementation. This ranking system 
is based on a number of factors, such as FSIS staffing needs, past 
performance of the establishment, and the location of the establishment 
in relation to other FSIS-regulated establishments. Scores for each 
establishment will be tabulated, and the establishments will be ordered 
from highest score to lowest. The highest scoring establishments will 
be placed first in the transition schedule. Many establishments will 
likely receive the same score so a random number will be added to their 
scores to separate these establishments and order them. A description 
of the ranking algorithm and the rational for the ranking process is 
available on the FSIS Web page at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/home.
    Once the ordered list of establishments is created, it will be 
divided into blocks based on the expected number of establishments that 
can be transitioned each month (expected to be approximately 12). A 
computer program then examines the list by looking at the corporate 
ownership (Dunn and Bradstreet corporate parent) of each establishment. 
If a disproportionate number of one corporation's establishments 
appears in the transition schedule for any month, another random number 
will be added to the establishments' scores to separate them.
    Because switching to the NPIS is voluntary, the implementation 
schedule will also need to be adjusted based on establishment 
readiness. Establishments that want to transition to the NPIS must 
notify FSIS and provide a date at which they can be ready to 
transition. Some establishments that are placed near the beginning of 
the transition schedule based on the computerized ranking system may 
need to be moved to a later month in the schedule because they are not 
ready. In addition, FSIS is aware that several large parent 
corporations are establishing roving teams to prepare their 
establishments for the transition. The work of these teams may also 
cause some establishments not to be ready to transition at the earliest 
opportunity and require rescheduling them into later months.
    FSIS will be implementing the NPIS by clusters of establishments in 
close geographic proximity to one another. Once the NPIS is fully 
implemented at all of the establishments in a cluster, FSIS will then 
begin implementing the NPIS in the next selected cluster. Young chicken 
and turkey slaughter establishments that decide that they would like to 
convert to NPIS after the initial notification date may notify FSIS of 
their intent at any time after that date. The Agency will implement the 
NPIS in the additional establishments that intend to convert to the 
NPIS on a schedule consistent with Agency resources and readiness. The 
Agency intends to implement the NPIS in all young chicken and turkey 
establishment that choose to operate under the NPIS, regardless of when 
the establishment notifies FSIS of its intent to transition to the 
NPIS. However, the initial implementation wave will only include those 
establishments that submitted their notification within the initial 
notification period.
3. Comments on Proposed Implementation Plan
    Comment: A few trade associations and a poultry producer stated 
that the implementation process needs to be structured in a way that is 
fair and ensures that FSIS is not allowing one company a competitive 
advantage over another. One poultry producer was concerned that the 
establishments permitted to implement the NPIS first will be able to 
increase their line speeds, efficiency, and slaughter capacity, while 
other establishments will be economically harmed as they wait for their 
implementation date. Industry members and trade associations did not 
agree on what they believed to be the best implementation strategy.
    Response: The system that FSIS will be using to determine the 
schedule of establishments for implementation of the NPIS does take 
into consideration corporate ownership of the establishments.
    As discussed above, FSIS is using a computerized ranking scoring 
system based on various factors, such as FSIS staffing needs, 
establishment performance, and establishment location, to generate an 
ordered list of establishments for NPIS implementation. After the 
Agency establishes the initial establishment list, the list will be 
divided into blocks based on the expected number of establishments that 
can be transitioned each month. A computer program then examines the 
list by looking at the corporate ownership of each establishment. If a 
disproportionate number of one corporation's establishments appear in 
the transition schedule for any month, another random number will be 
added to the establishments' scores to separate them. FSIS believes 
that this process will provide for a fair and objective NPIS 
implementation schedule.
    With respect to the comment that expressed concern that the 
establishments permitted to implement the NPIS first will be able to 
increase their line speeds while other establishments wait for their 
implementation date, as discussed above, the maximum line speed for 
young chickens under the NPIS will be 140 bpm. Thus, although 
establishments that convert to the NPIS will have greater control over 
their line and production process, the maximum line speeds for all 
young chicken establishments will be 140 bpm regardless of when they 
convert to the NPIS.

[[Page 49594]]

    Comment: A State Department of Agriculture and a trade association 
supported the idea of staggered implementation. One trade association 
stated that establishments should be given a greater amount of time to 
determine whether they want to convert to a new inspection system or 
operate under Traditional Inspection, as was proposed. Another trade 
association expressed concern that a turkey establishment may not know 
by the end of the 6-month period, as proposed by FSIS, if it will want 
to convert to the NPIS because of the long grow-out cycle for turkeys 
compared to chickens (18-22 weeks for toms, broilers can be as short as 
5 weeks). This trade association also stated that there needs to be a 
process for those establishments that want to adopt the NPIS at a date 
beyond the proposed 3-year implementation period.
    Response: FSIS agrees that staggered implementation is the best 
approach. The 6-month time period also works well for Agency planning 
and staffing needs. The Agency has concluded that an initial 6-month 
notification period is a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, all 
young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments will have 6 months to 
determine whether they want to convert to the NPIS during the initial 
transition period or continue to operate under their current inspection 
system. Additionally, there will be a process for those establishments 
that want to adopt the NPIS at a date beyond the initial implementation 
period. Those establishments may notify FSIS of their intent to operate 
under the NPIS at any time after the initial 6-month notification 
period. FSIS will implement the NPIS in the additional establishments 
as Agency resources and readiness allow.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization recommended that FSIS 
implement one new provision in the rule at a time and assess the 
potential food safety impact of each change before implementing the 
next provision. The comment said that the Agency must ensure that 
microbial contamination rates on carcasses continue to improve as 
incremental changes are implemented. For example, before implementing 
other changes for the NPIS, this consumer advocacy organization 
suggested that FSIS implement the proposed new mandatory testing 
provisions that would apply to all poultry slaughter establishments. 
According to the comment, all poultry establishments should be required 
to operate under the new testing program for at least 90 days to 
generate a baseline that FSIS could use to assess the effects that the 
additional proposed measures may have on contamination rates. This 
comment stated that after establishments have generated the necessary 
baseline data, FSIS could implement additional program changes while 
assessing the effects on microbial contamination rates against the 
existing baseline data to ensure that individual changes do not 
negatively impact process controls. The comment said that if 
establishments demonstrate that they are maintaining process control as 
each change is implemented, FSIS could consider additional individual 
changes.
    Response: As discussed above, because establishments operating 
under the NPIS will have more control over their lines and greater 
flexibility to implement new technologies, it is difficult to predict 
how establishments will implement the NPIS when this rule becomes 
effective. Thus, it would be difficult to develop an NPIS 
implementation strategy to assess individual changes adopted by each 
establishment that could be applied consistently across the industry.
    However, as discussed earlier in this document, after considering 
the comments, FSIS agrees that it is important to assess 
establishments' ability to maintain process control as they implement 
changes to operate under the NPIS. Therefore, to allow the Agency to 
assess the impact of the various changes implemented by establishments 
to operate under the NPIS, the maximum line speed under the NPIS will 
be 140 bpm for young chickens. This is the maximum line speed permitted 
under the existing poultry inspection systems under SIS.
    After the NPIS has been fully implemented on a wide scale, and the 
Agency has gained at least a year of experience under the new system, 
FSIS intends to assess the impact of changes adopted by establishments 
operating under the NPIS by evaluating the results of the Agency's 
Salmonella and Campylobacter verification sampling, reviewing 
documentation on establishments' OCP performance, and considering other 
relevant factors. FSIS will consider this information in assessing 
whether establishments operating under the NPIS have implemented 
measures that are effective in maintaining process control.
    Furthermore, under this final rule, large establishments, small 
establishments, and very small establishments will be required to 
implement the new microbiological sampling requirements 90 days, 120 
days, and 180 days, respectively, after the publication of this final 
rule. Therefore, depending on when each establishment converts to NPIS, 
they will likely have already implemented the new sampling requirements 
when they transition to NPIS. When establishments transition to the 
NPIS, they will be expected to maintain records, including records of 
their test results, to demonstrate that they are maintaining process 
control. Therefore, FSIS has concluded that it is not necessary to 
require that establishments generate a baseline for at least 90 days 
before implementing the NPIS.
    Comment: A State Department of Agriculture stated that the smallest 
volume establishments should have the longest time to comply because 
they will find it difficult to implement certain sections of the 
proposed rule because of limitations in personnel, budget, time, and 
expertise in microbiology. As an example, the comment said that very 
small establishments may need additional time to implement their 
revised sampling programs.
    Response: FSIS agrees that small businesses should have more time 
to implement the new sampling requirements. Small establishments will 
have 120 days and very small establishments will have 180 days to 
implement the regulations that prescribe procedures for controlling 
visible fecal contamination in 9 CFR 381.65(f), the regulations that 
prescribe procedures for controlling contamination throughout the 
slaughter and dressing process in 9 CFR 381.65(g), and the 
recordkeeping requirements in 9 CFR 381.65(h).
    Comment: A poultry producer and a trade association stated that 
FSIS should consider allowing industry the option of staggering 
implementation by line and shift as coordinated between establishment 
management and the District Office. This poultry producer argued that 
this will allow the industry to conduct on-the-job training with staff 
and help the Agency reallocate inspection resources over a period of 
time instead of having to reassign an entire establishment of 
inspection program personnel all at once.
    Response: FSIS has decided not to give establishments the option to 
stagger implementation by line and shift. It would be too difficult for 
FSIS to perform its inspection activities at establishments that are 
operating different lines or shifts under the NPIS and one of the other 
inspection systems at the same time. For Agency planning and resource 
purposes, if an establishment wants to convert to the NPIS, all of the 
establishment's lines and shifts will be required to switch to the NPIS 
during the transition.

[[Page 49595]]

    Comment: A few trade associations stated that implementation plans 
should be establishment specific. One trade association stated that 
these establishment specific plans should be based on the systems, 
methods of processing, and supply considerations of that establishment. 
Another trade association argued that establishments should be allowed 
to develop individualized implementation plans in coordination with 
their District Offices to facilitate Agency planning and resource 
allocation.
    One trade association stated that there should be a significant 
transition period where establishments may continue to operate under 
their current inspection system while developing their implementation 
plans and making them available to the Agency. Under the trade 
association's plan, the Agency would have a set period of time to 
comment on the plans, after which establishments would begin making the 
necessary financial, facility, and personnel changes to implement the 
NPIS. The trade association also recommended that the Agency publish a 
list of pre-approved implementation strategies in an FSIS notice and 
encourage establishments to use strategies from the list to develop 
their individualized implementation plans.
    Response: FSIS expects that establishments will work closely with 
their District Offices to implement the NPIS. As stated above, all 
young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments will have 6 months 
from the date of publication of this final rule to notify their 
District Office in writing whether they intend to operate under the 
NPIS during the initial transition period. FSIS will attempt to 
accommodate establishments' requests to transition to the NPIS at the 
times stated in their notification to the District Office. However, 
FSIS will be implementing the NPIS by clusters of establishments in 
close geographic proximity to one another. The system that FSIS will be 
using to determine the schedule of establishments for implementation of 
the NPIS is described above. Once an establishment is selected to 
convert to the NPIS, the District Office will work with the 
establishment to successfully transition its operations.
    FSIS does not plan to publish a list of pre-approved implementation 
strategies. However, if an establishment wants to make changes to its 
operation to prepare for conversion to the NPIS, FSIS will try and 
accommodate those changes as long as they do not affect FSIS inspection 
activities or procedures. For example, if an establishment operating 
under the current system wants to have employees practice sorting by 
removing carcasses with septicemic or toxemic conditions from the line 
before inspection and include these condemned birds in the official Lot 
Tally totals, the FSIS District Office will work with the establishment 
to try to accommodate such a request. FSIS will consider these requests 
on a case-by-case basis. FSIS has concluded that allowing this type of 
flexibility will help establishments successfully transition to the 
NPIS.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization stated that before FSIS 
allows an establishment to transition to the NPIS, the Agency should 
require that the establishment demonstrate that it is financially 
capable of meeting the new requirements and assuming its new role under 
the new inspection system. The comment stated that the theory behind 
the consideration is that a firm under financial duress might cut 
corners in its processes that could compromise food safety.
    Response: Before an establishment is allowed to transition to the 
NPIS, the establishment will need to develop a plan to meet the new 
requirements. FSIS will not be imposing any financial requirements on 
establishments before they are allowed to transition to the NPIS. Once 
an establishment transitions to NPIS, it will have to demonstrate that 
it is maintaining process control.
    In addition, as discussed above, rather than eliminate SIS, NELS, 
and NTIS, as was proposed, this final rule will leave in place all 
existing inspection systems. Thus, establishments that do not have the 
resources to convert to the NPIS during the first implementation phase 
will have the flexibility to operate under the inspection system that 
is best suited to their operations. These establishments will also have 
the option to convert to the NPIS at a later date without having to 
convert to a modified Traditional Inspection first.
    Comment: Several industry members and trade associations stated 
that the proposed rule lacks detail regarding implementation and that 
implementation plans need to be clearly communicated to industry 
through listening sessions or roundtables like HACCP or PHIS 
implementation to help successful transition to the NPIS. One poultry 
producer believed that FSIS may benefit from hosting a public meeting 
to receive feedback on how best to implement the NPIS. One trade 
association stated that the Agency needs to work closely with 
stakeholders on implementation. One trade association also stated that 
communication with inspection program personnel needs to happen well 
before implementation and that communication materials need to be 
shared with industry in an open and transparent manner.
    Response: This final rule provides more detail regarding 
implementation if an establishment chooses the NPIS. FSIS intends to 
communicate its plans to industry, inspection program personnel, other 
stakeholders, and the public through additional means as necessary. 
Before implementation, FSIS will communicate with its inspection 
program personnel about the NPIS and provide them with materials 
regarding the NPIS. FSIS issues instructions to inspection program 
personnel through FSIS Notices and Directives, which are published on 
the FSIS Web site and are accessible to the public.
    Comment: Several industry members and trade associations stated 
that FSIS needs to provide clear and consistent guidance to FSIS 
personnel and industry. One poultry producer argued that FSIS should 
provide industry with the training tools utilized for inspection 
program personnel under the existing slaughter systems to facilitate 
the transition to the NPIS. Additionally, one trade association stated 
that a compliance guide (e.g., describing training related to quality 
defects and disease conditions) that is at least equivalent to FSIS's 
expectations of its inspection program personnel should be created. A 
State Department of Agriculture and a trade association stated that 
FSIS needs to provide scale-appropriate guidance and training materials 
(e.g., guidance on developing anti-contamination procedures and 
sampling programs) to small and very small establishments to assist in 
compliance with the rule.
    Response: As stated previously, FSIS has converted the current 
instructions that it provides Agency inspectors into guidance for 
industry to use to train establishment sorters. This guidance is 
available on the FSIS Web site at: http:[sol][sol]www.fsis.usda.gov/
wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index.
    FSIS intends to provide guidance to industry on the new sections of 
this final rule, including the new sampling plans. Guidance and 
training materials will be scale-appropriate and will focus on guidance 
that is appropriate for small and very small establishments.
    Comment: Several trade associations advocated that the Agency 
should create an experienced group of experts to coordinate 
implementation of the NPIS, address key issues that arise during 
implementation, and focus on facility and inspector concerns. According 
to one of the trade associations, this approach would minimize cost and

[[Page 49596]]

disruption to the industry and inspection, provide mutually beneficial 
training opportunities, and ensure a consistent approach to 
implementing the NPIS across the nation. Several trade associations 
stated that the group of experts should function as an operational 
hotline (similar to the Agency's Small Plant Hotline) to quickly 
address questions from establishments and inspectors about the NPIS and 
how it is supposed to work in specific situations.
    Response: The Agency will continue to provide technical support to 
its workforce and industry through its standard channels. For example, 
FSIS will continue to encourage referring questions to its Policy 
Development Staff through askFSIS at http://askfsis.custhelp.com/ or by 
telephone at 1-800-233-3935. Members of the Policy Development Staff 
were involved in the development of this final rule and will have the 
expertise to address issues that arise during implementation of this 
final rule. FSIS believes that its existing Agency resources are 
sufficient to address issues that arise with respect to this final 
rule. Additionally, the Agency will be providing appropriate 
instructions, guidance, and training to its inspectors on the NPIS. The 
Agency will also provide guidance to industry that will help 
establishments with regard to this final rule.

F. Line Speeds and Worker Safety

1. Collaboration With the National Institute for Occupational Safety 
and Health
    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 
is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the 
Department of Health and Human Services. NIOSH's mission is to generate 
new scientific knowledge and provide practical solutions vital to 
reducing risks of illness, injury, and death in the field of 
occupational safety and health, and transfer that knowledge into 
practice. In the proposed rule, FSIS acknowledged the potential for an 
increase in inspection line speed to affect establishment employee 
safety (77 FR 4423-4425). The Agency explained that to obtain 
preliminary data on the matter, it had asked NIOSH to evaluate the 
effects of increased inspection line speeds on establishment worker 
safety by evaluating the inspection lines and workers from 
establishments that had been granted waivers from line speed 
restrictions under the SIP. As noted in both the proposed rule and the 
Federal Register document to extend the comment period, NIOSH initiated 
such an evaluation in one non-HIMP establishment that is operating 
under a waiver from line speed restrictions under SIP (77 FR 4423 and 
77 FR 2487).
    The current NIOSH evaluation assessed this establishment prior to 
any changes allowed under the SIP line speed waiver, and also after 
changes were implemented. NIOSH completed its evaluation and made its 
final report available to the public in March 2014 (Evaluation of 
Musculoskeletal Disorders and Traumatic Injuries Among Employees at a 
Poultry Processing Plant; Report No. 2012-0125-3204, March 2014. 
Available on the Internet at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2012-0125-3204.pdf). The report describes NIOSH's findings and 
recommendations from an evaluation conducted before and after the 
establishment combined two evisceration lines into one and increased 
the evisceration line speed. The NIOSH evaluation provides valuable 
information to FSIS, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and 
Health Administration (OSHA), and other stakeholders.
    FSIS considers the NIOSH evaluation to be an important first step 
in measuring any impact of evisceration (or inspection) line speeds on 
workers in poultry slaughter and processing establishments. Without the 
NIOSH evaluation and access that FSIS was able to ensure, such 
information likely would not be developed. As stated previously, FSIS 
will consider the available data on employee effects collected from 
NIOSH activities when implementing the final rule. FSIS has committed 
to working with NIOSH and OSHA on disseminating the guidance resulting 
from the current NIOSH study, and ensuring greater awareness by FSIS 
and the industry about worker safety and health.
2. Collaboration With OSHA
    OSHA is an agency of the United States Department of Labor, and was 
created to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men 
and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, 
outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA is helping FSIS address the 
health and safety of FSIS inspectors when they are performing their 
duties in federally-regulated establishments. FSIS has an Occupational 
Safety and Health Division, comprised of professional Occupational 
Safety and Health Specialists, a Certified Professional Ergonomist, 
Certified Industrial Hygienists, and Certified Safety Professionals 
dedicated to ensuring a safe and healthful work environment for FSIS 
employees. FSIS is in the process of establishing a Safety and Health 
Committee made up of program representatives as well as members of the 
National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals to ensure continual 
improvement of FSIS's safety and health programs. FSIS has recently 
placed an increased emphasis on occupational safety and health for its 
employees, and has identified a reduction of the injuries and illnesses 
for FSIS employees as a key measure in the FSIS Strategic Plan for FY 
2011-2016.\11\ FSIS Directive 4791.12, ``Reporting and Correcting 
Occupational Hazards,'' and FSIS Directive 4791.13, ``Workplace 
Inspections, and Injury, Illness and Motor Vehicle Incident 
Reporting,'' provide FSIS inspection personnel with procedures for 
reporting and correcting workplace safety and health hazards that 
affect FSIS employees. FSIS AgLearn Course 8500, ``Recognizing and 
Reporting Occupational Safety and Health Hazards,'' is available to 
improve FSIS employees' ability to recognize and report workplace 
safety and health hazards in accordance with the FSIS worker safety 
directives.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informational/aboutfsis/strategic-planning/strategic+planning/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FSIS also recognizes the importance of establishment worker safety 
and will work with OSHA to heighten FSIS employees' awareness of 
serious occupational safety hazards in FSIS-regulated establishments. 
FSIS has begun working with OSHA to continually update and improve the 
training of FSIS inspectors in recognition of serious workplace hazards 
and will provide a referral system to report such hazards to OSHA. The 
Agency will issue an FSIS Notice, ``Procedures for Notifying the 
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).'' The notice 
establishes a procedure for FSIS inspection personnel to notify OSHA 
directly of serious workplace hazards that may affect non-federal 
establishment personnel in meat and poultry products establishments and 
in egg product plants. The notice provides inspection personnel with 
OSHA's confidential 1-800 number to refer an occupational safety or 
health concern for a plant employee directly to OSHA.
    FSIS has also taken action to encourage establishments to comply 
with OSHA requirements. In May 2011, the Agency published an article on 
``Reporting Work Related Injuries'' in its ``Small Plant News'' 
publication.\12\ The

[[Page 49597]]

article discussed the importance of OSHA's requirements for recording 
and reporting work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities, and 
provided guidance to small establishments on how to comply with these 
requirements. The article encouraged small establishments to contact 
OSHA with any questions on OSHA's requirements and included contact 
information for OSHA's regional recordkeeping coordinators.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ ``Small Plant News, Vol. 4, No. 2. Available on the 
Internet at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/d277c886-f942-447b-baec-3247b405ae8a/Small_Plant_News_Vol4_No2.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Agency published another worker safety article in the December 
2012 ``Small Plant News'' titled ``Know OSHA's Safety and Health 
Standards.'' \13\ The article provides an overview of the OSHA 
regulations that affect federally-inspected meat and poultry 
establishments and processed egg products plants. It also provides an 
excerpt of the standards described in OSHA's Small Business Handbook 
and provides a link that allows interested parties to access the 
document on the Internet.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ ``Small Plant News, Vol. 6, No. 3. Available on the 
Internet at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/1b75a216-fa3c-43fb-a5eb-7cc27ed942fa/Small_Plant_News_Vol6_No3.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As part of FSIS's ongoing collaboration with OSHA, FSIS had 
numerous discussions with OSHA during the development of this final 
rule on how best to address potential issues related to line speeds and 
worker safety. As discussed above, to allow FSIS to assess the impacts 
of changes implemented by establishments that convert to the NPIS, the 
maximum line speeds under the NPIS established in this final rule will 
be 140 bpm for young chickens instead of 175 bpm, as was proposed. The 
highest maximum line speed under the current inspection systems is 140 
bpm under SIS. Thus, under this final rule, any increase in line speed 
that establishments implement under the NPIS will not exceed the 
maximum line speeds authorized under the existing inspection systems.
    OSHA has provided FSIS with a set of recommended actions that 
poultry establishments can take to address the health and safety of 
establishment employees. These recommendations are as follows:
     Develop and implement policies to encourage prompt 
reporting of injuries and illnesses;
     Evaluate existing programs to ensure that they do not 
discourage employees from reporting injuries and illnesses;
     Implement a training program for employees on job hazards, 
early symptoms of illnesses and injuries, and how to prevent them. 
Ensure that training is offered in a manner and language that workers 
can understand;
     Conduct routine surveillance of injury and illness logs as 
well as the workplace to identify potential job hazards;
     Establish an employee complaint or suggestion procedure 
designed to allow employees to raise job hazard issues without fear of 
reprisal;
     Request employee feedback on workplace modifications; and
     When job hazards are identified, implement mitigating 
measures.
    FSIS and OSHA agree that surveillance for injuries and illnesses is 
particularly important to identify whether workers are experiencing 
adverse health or safety effects when performing their duties and to 
trigger appropriate intervention if they are.
    Although FSIS does not have the authority to require that 
establishments adopt these recommendations, the Agency believes that 
prudent establishments will consider them carefully. FSIS recommends 
that establishments develop plans to implement OSHA's recommendations. 
FSIS expects establishments to adopt the OSHA recommendations discussed 
in this preamble and any other reasonable measures to minimize the risk 
of adverse health and safety effects to establishment employees. 
Establishments are reminded that Federal and State OSHA retain 
authority over assuring worker safety, and that OSHA will be paying 
close attention to poultry slaughter establishments, including those 
that elect to operate under the NPIS. FSIS recommends that 
establishments review OSHA's recordkeeping regulations at 29 CFR 1904, 
OSHA's General Industry Standards at 29 CFR 1910, and OSHA's Prevention 
of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3213.pdf).
    In addition to the recommended actions to enhance surveillance for 
work-related injuries and illnesses, OSHA also recommended that 
establishments implement an employee injury and illness prevention 
program. FSIS and OSHA agree that injury and illness prevention 
programs may substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace 
injuries and alleviate the associated financial burdens on U.S. 
workplaces. Most successful injury and illness prevention programs are 
based on a common set of key elements, including management leadership, 
worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard 
prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation 
and improvement.\14\ The Agency expects that a prudent establishment 
would have such a program in place. FSIS recommends that establishments 
that do not have existing employee illness and injury prevention 
programs adopt OSHA's recommendation and take the necessary actions to 
begin to implement such a program.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ OSHA [2013]. Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in 
Poultry Processing. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety 
and Health Administration, OSHA 3213-09N; available at: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3213.pdf.
    OSHA [2012]. Injury and Illness Prevention Programs--White 
Paper. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health 
Administration; available at: http://www.osha.gov/dsg/InjuryIllnessPreventionProgramsWhitePaper.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    All poultry establishments are required to comply with applicable 
laws administered by other agencies, including the occupational safety 
statutes administered by OSHA. To stress the importance of 
establishment worker safety, FSIS has modified the proposed regulation 
that prescribes maximum line speed rates under the NPIS to emphasize 
establishments' existing legal obligation to comply with OSHA statutes. 
Thus, 9 CFR 381.69 now includes a new paragraph (d) that states that 
establishments operating under the line speed limits authorized in this 
section shall comply with all other applicable requirements of the law, 
including, but not limited to, 29 U.S.C. 654(a). Although this new 
paragraph is included in the regulation that prescribes line speeds for 
establishments operating under the NPIS, establishments operating under 
any inspection system also must continue to comply with all other 
applicable requirements of the law.
    FSIS supports collaboration among industry, academia, and 
governmental bodies such as OSHA, NIOSH, and FSIS to identify causal 
relationships between workplace factors and musculoskeletal disorders 
(MSDs), and develop mitigation strategies that are technically and 
economically feasible. The NIOSH evaluation is a strong starting point 
for this effort, but additional work may be needed.
3. General Comments on Line Speed and Worker Safety
    In the Federal Register document to extend the comment period on 
the proposed rule, FSIS requested comments on the effects of increased 
line speeds and production volume on worker safety (77 FR 24877). FSIS 
received many comments on this issue from worker and human rights 
advocacy organizations, poultry establishment employees, consumer 
advocacy

[[Page 49598]]

organizations, labor unions, public health associations, members of 
academia, companies that own poultry slaughter establishments, trade 
associations that represent the poultry industry, and private citizens. 
The vast majority of comments that the Agency received in response to 
the proposed rule were on this issue.
    Many of the comments stated that FSIS should consult with NIOSH and 
OSHA on the final rule. Additionally, many of the comments submitted by 
workers and human rights advocacy organizations, immigrant advocacy 
organizations, consumer advocacy organizations, labor unions, public 
health associations, and members of academia said that FSIS should 
withdraw the proposed rule because of risks that the proposed increased 
maximum line speeds could potentially pose to the health and safety of 
thousands of poultry slaughter and processing workers. These comments 
said that if FSIS does not withdraw the rule, the Agency should at 
least withhold implementation until NIOSH completes a comprehensive 
study of the effect of production line speed on the health and safety 
of workers, and OSHA considers any implications for potential 
rulemaking.
    Most of these comments referred to governmental reports, or 
research studies published in the occupational and public health 
literature. The most commonly cited sources included:
     The 2005 GAO report, which linked production line speed to 
occupational injury and illness rates in the slaughter industry and 
called for independent research to better understand this relationship;
     2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showing that 
injury rates were higher among poultry processing workers than the 
overall private industry average, and that more lost time, job 
transfers and restricted duty were incurred in the poultry industry 
than the overall private industry average;
     A study by the Wake Forest School of Medicine Center for 
Worker Health, which reported a 59% prevalence of carpal tunnel 
syndrome (CTS) symptoms among Latino workers at selected poultry plants 
in North Carolina operating under the existing inspection systems; and
     A 2007 study by researchers from the Duke University 
Medical Center's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 
which found that among low-income African-American women in rural North 
Carolina the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms of the upper 
extremities and neck was 2.4 times higher in those working at poultry 
plants compared to workers in other local industries.
    Most commenters were concerned that an increase in production line 
speed would lead to increased rates of musculoskeletal disorders, other 
traumatic injuries, and potentially adverse health effects of 
psychological and emotional stress among industry workers, particularly 
in processing jobs involving highly repetitive knife use. These will be 
discussed below.
4. Inspection Line Speed, Processing Line Speed, and Production Volume
    The 2005 GAO report recognized that the speed of the production 
line may be ``an important factor influencing (worker) safety and 
health.'' FSIS acknowledges NIOSH's finding of a strong relationship 
between risk factors, such as prolonged or repetitive hand activity, 
gripping force and exposure to cold, and MSDs including carpal tunnel 
syndrome (CTS) in the processing environment. Increasing line speed in 
processing, without changing other factors, could result in an increase 
of work pace for establishment employees, and increasing work pace 
among establishment employees, without taking appropriate mitigation 
actions, could increase risk of injuries and illnesses among 
establishment employees.
    FSIS believes a key distinction should be made between processing 
line speed, inspection line speed, and daily production volume. The 
regulations require that establishments operate processing lines in a 
manner that maintains sanitary conditions and that will result in the 
production of poultry and poultry products that are not adulterated (9 
CFR 381.65(a)). As the GAO report and many comments have pointed out, 
the poultry regulations limit the speed of poultry inspection lines to 
enable FSIS inspectors to effectively inspect each carcass presented to 
them. The current poultry regulations and this final rule do not 
prevent industry from running a processing line faster or slower than 
the inspection line. Slaughter establishments have always had the 
ability, at their discretion, to balance operating hours, staffing 
levels, and production line speed in processing departments to match 
the output of the inspection line. For example, an establishment could 
choose to operate its processing department at twice the speed of the 
inspection line, for half of the operating hours. Likewise, it could 
increase staffing in a processing department and slow the line speed 
proportionally to handle the volume of birds coming from the inspection 
line. These are operational and economic decisions made by each 
establishment, rather than a matter of FSIS regulations.
    Slaughter establishments must make operational and economic 
decisions balancing staffing levels, production line speeds, and 
operating hours to accommodate daily production volume. While 
inspection line speed does influence daily production volume, 
establishments determine their own maximum production volume through 
the number of inspection lines they choose to operate.
    We also note the difference between line speed and work pace. While 
work pace in processing departments is influenced by inspection line 
speed, factors such as staffing levels, plant layout, and product flow 
are more important predictors of work pace, as described in the 
following examples. FSIS does not directly regulate these factors.
    For example, if a single inspection line feeds a single processing 
line (e.g., manual deboning), the work pace of processing workers will 
depend on the number of workers assigned to that line. If the birds 
from a single processing line are exiting the chiller at a maximum of 
140 bpm, and if ten workers are assigned to that processing line, each 
worker will have an average work pace of 14 bpm. Adding an eleventh 
worker would reduce the work pace to an average of 12.7 bpm per worker. 
Additional staffing would reduce the workload proportionally.
    If, under this same scenario, the establishment changes its layout 
to add a second identical processing line staffed with 10 additional 
workers, the work pace for each worker would decrease from 14 bpm to 7 
bpm. These are just some examples of how factors other than line speed 
are more likely to affect work pace.
    Industry employees' actual exposure to MSD risk factors, such as 
repetitive or prolonged hand activity, will be affected by the number 
of birds presented to each worker during a shift and the amount of time 
each bird is in position to be worked on. In the simplest model of an 
equal number of inspection and processing lines, it may be that 
inspection line speed will influence the maximum processing line speed. 
The Agency does not believe, however, that this model adequately 
represents the industry as a whole, where a single inspection line may 
feed multiple processing lines or different end products. Although the 
inspection line speed is a potential factor, economic factors (e.g., 
consumer

[[Page 49599]]

demand and staffing/equipment capacity) will ultimately determine the 
number of birds presented to each worker for processing during a shift. 
These economic factors are addressed by industry and not regulated by 
FSIS.
5. Factors Influencing Inspection Line Speed
    Many comments seem to assume that the faster line speeds for 
poultry inspection included in the proposed rule (but not included in 
the final rule) that would necessarily have been authorized under the 
NPIS would result in a very large increase in the volume of poultry 
products being processed by workers. However, as discussed earlier, 
line speed is not directly equivalent to production work pace; 
inspection line speed does not directly impact plant employees in 
further stages of an establishment (e.g., on the processing line).
    The proposed faster line speeds for inspection--not included in 
this final rule--would have allowed establishments to slaughter the 
birds more efficiently but would not necessarily have led to a 
substantial increase in processed output; consumer demand for poultry 
products determine the number of birds slaughtered rather than line 
speeds.
    FSIS thinks that establishments choosing to operate under the NPIS 
will determine their line speeds based on the same factors that 
establishments considered when setting line speeds under HIMP.
6. Inspection Line Speed and Inspector Safety Under the NPIS
    Comment: A labor union expressed concern about the potential 
effects to the online CI if the proposed faster maximum line speed that 
would have been authorized under the NPIS. The comment said that the 
purpose of the NIOSH study described in the proposed rule is to assess 
the effects of line speeds on establishment personnel. The comment 
stated that the faster line speeds that would have been permitted under 
the NPIS would also likely affect inspection personnel.
    The comment noted that the NIOSH will study ``a maximum of five 
non-HIMP establishments that applied through the SIP to receive waivers 
of existing regulations restricting line speeds.'' The comment 
expressed concern that the NIOSH study is only intended to gather 
additional data of the effects of line speeds on the worker safety 
without saying how increased line speeds have the potential to cause 
unintended or foreseeable safety issues. The comment questioned how 
this plan to gather additional data will relate to ensuring FSIS online 
CIs are adequately protected, or how actual safety issues will be 
remedied. The comment said that before FSIS decides to implement the 
NPIS, it should make a serious, scientific inquiry into the potential 
dangers related to the online inspector's new position.
    Response: Under the NPIS, establishment employees rather than 
online inspectors will be responsible for conducting sorting 
activities. Therefore, the online inspection procedures under the NPIS 
do not require that the CI touch or handle each carcass. Thus, because 
CIs will have infrequent contact with the carcasses, their inspection 
activities will involve less frequent head and hand motions than are 
conducted under the existing non-HIMP inspection systems. In addition, 
as discussed above, FSIS has revised the proposed facilities 
requirements for the online carcass inspection platform to require that 
the platform be height-adjustable to accommodate the individual CI. 
Based on recent studies published in the occupational health 
literature, FSIS believes the reduction in hand activity under the new 
inspection system will lead to a reduction in the risk of 
musculoskeletal disorders for inspection personnel.
7. Industry Efforts To Address Worker Safety
    Comment: Some comments from trade associations agreed that worker 
safety must be considered when establishing line speeds, and stated 
that establishments do take worker safety into account. However, the 
comments maintained that worker safety should be addressed separately 
from food safety. The comments said the poultry industry has a strong 
record of working with OSHA to help in OSHA's efforts to protect the 
safety and health of employees, most recently with a formal OSHA 
Alliance from 2007-2009. The comments expressed support for working 
with the government and industry to maintain a strong safety record.
    Response: FSIS will support effective industry efforts to protect 
the health and safety of employees. FSIS also supports industry 
collaboration with OSHA and NIOSH, and encourages the industry to work 
with OSHA to further protect the health and safety of employees. FSIS 
is willing to work with industry when it is appropriate and useful to 
do so to move collaborative efforts forward with OSHA.
    Comment: Two trade associations representing the poultry industry 
stated that after 13 years of the HIMP pilot program, the data indicate 
that the rate of worker injuries in HIMP establishments has been on 
average at or below industry average rates. One comment said that, in 
many instances, turkey HIMP establishments have reported worker injury 
rates well below the already low industry average.
    One comment stated that a recent survey of broiler establishments 
participating in the Agency's HIMP pilot shows that, for both Total 
Recordable Injury Rates and Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred 
(DART) Rates, HIMP establishments are as safe for workers as 
establishments that operate under non-HIMP inspection systems. 
According to the comment, there is no statistical difference between 
establishments involved in the HIMP pilot project and establishments 
that operate under non-HIMP inspection systems with respect to Total 
Recordable Injury Rates and DART Rates.
    Response: The information provided in the comment suggests that 
worker injury rates in HIMP establishments may be at or below the 
worker injury rates in non-HIMP establishments. However, because the 
comment did not discuss the details on how the survey was conducted, 
the Agency is unable to assess the findings. As noted above, FSIS 
encourages the trade association and its members to work with OSHA on 
worker safety issues. It may be useful for the trade association to 
submit its survey and findings to OSHA, since OSHA has the expertise in 
evaluating this type of information regarding worker health and safety.
8. Reporting of Work-Related Injuries
    Comment: Several comments said that although the data show that 
workers in the poultry slaughter and processing industry suffer adverse 
health and safety effects under the existing line speeds, studies 
indicate, and statements by poultry workers confirm, that the official 
injury statistics fail to accurately represent the extent to which 
worker injuries and musculoskeletal diseases and disorders affect 
workers in the poultry slaughter and processing industry.
    The comments said that workers in the poultry industry are 
regularly discouraged by their employers from reporting work-related 
health conditions or seeking relief under the workers' compensation 
system. The comments also stated that workers do not report injuries 
for a variety of reasons, including concern about work hours, job 
security, and residency status in the United States. The comments added 
that injuries sustained by workers who are dismissed or resign during 
their initial

[[Page 49600]]

three month probationary period are also not reported. The comments 
noted that OSHA has recognized that there are problems related to the 
under reporting of work-related injuries and established a Special 
Emphasis Program on underreporting in 2009. According to the comments, 
OSHA identified poultry processing as a targeted industry under this 
program.
    Response: OSHA is the appropriate agency to address issues 
associated with the reporting of worker injuries. As discussed above, 
OSHA has provided several recommendations that poultry slaughter 
establishments can implement to improve surveillance for worker 
injuries. FSIS strongly encourages establishments to adopt these 
recommendations.
    FSIS recognizes that systematic underreporting of work-related 
injuries and illnesses could make it difficult to accurately assess the 
extent to which poultry workers suffer from work-related injuries and 
musculoskeletal diseases and disorders.
9. Attestation to FSIS on Work-Related Conditions
    As discussed above, in both the proposed rule and the Federal 
Register document extending the comment period, FSIS acknowledged the 
potential for increased inspection line speed to affect the safety of 
establishment workers (77 FR 4423-4424 and 77 FR 2487). FSIS also 
``recognize[d] that the evaluation of the effects of line speed on food 
safety should include the effects of line speed on establishment 
employee safety'' (77 FR at 4423). And as noted above, commenters 
raised concerns about the effects that increased line speeds might have 
on the health and safety of workers in poultry slaughter 
establishments.
    Most of these comments expressed concern that workers subject to 
faster line speeds could suffer increased numbers of occupational 
injuries and illnesses, particularly musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) 
such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and that potential negative effects on 
workers could also have an adverse effect on poultry safety. The 
comments specifically noted that MSDs could affect workers to the 
extent that they could not do their jobs properly, and also addressed 
the possibility of bacterial contamination between workers and poultry, 
exposure to other pathogens, and risk of laceration. Moreover, comments 
also expressed concern that poultry processors' injury and illness logs 
may not reflect the full extent of work-related conditions experienced 
by poultry workers. A number of commenters requested that FSIS either 
withdraw the proposal because of the increased risk of injury to 
workers, or at least delay implementation of a final rule until NIOSH, 
a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the 
Department of Health and Human Services, completed a comprehensive 
study of the effect of line speed on worker safety and health.
    As discussed above, in the proposed rule FSIS explained that it 
asked NIOSH to evaluate the effects of increased inspection line speeds 
on establishment worker safety by collecting data from establishments 
that had been granted waivers from line speed restrictions under the 
SIP (77 FR 4423-4425). NIOSH initiated such a study in one non-HIMP 
establishment that is operating under a waiver from line speed 
restrictions under SIP (77 FR 4423 and 77 FR 2487). NIOSH has completed 
its evaluation and made its final report available to the public in 
March 2014 (Evaluation of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Traumatic 
Injuries Among Employees at a Poultry Processing Plant; Report No. 
2012-0125-3204, March 2014; available on the Internet at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2012-0125-3204.pdf). The results 
from this study lend support to the concerns noted in the comments that 
poultry processors' injury and illness logs often do not reflect the 
full extent of work-related conditions experienced by poultry workers.
    To address these concerns, FSIS is establishing a new subpart H 
``Attestation on Work-Related Conditions.'' Subpart H includes an 
annual attestation requirement (9 CFR 381.45) and a severability clause 
(9 CFR 381.46). The attestation provision requires that each 
establishment that operates under the NPIS provide an annual 
attestation to the management member of the local FSIS circuit safety 
committee stating that the establishment maintains a program to monitor 
and document any work-related conditions that arise among establishment 
workers. The elements of this program include:
    (1) Policies to encourage early reporting of symptoms of work-
related injuries and illnesses, and assurance that the establishment 
has no policies or programs intended to discourage the reporting of 
injuries and illnesses.
    (2) Notification to employees of the nature and early symptoms of 
occupational illnesses and injuries, in a manner and language that 
workers can understand, including by posting in a conspicuous place or 
places where notices to employees are customarily posted, a copy of the 
FSIS/OSHA poster encouraging reporting and describing reportable signs 
and symptoms.
    (3) Monitoring on a regular and routine basis of injury and illness 
logs, as well as nurse or medical office logs, workers' compensation 
data, and any other injury or illness information available.
    As discussed earlier in this document FSIS has decided to allow the 
20 young chicken establishments that have been granted SIP waivers to 
operate under the HIMP inspection system to continue to operate under a 
SIP waiver to run at line speeds of up to 175 bpm. FSIS will also 
update these SIP waivers to remove aspects of HIMP that are 
inconsistent with the NPIS, such as the OCP performance standards. To 
ensure that the updated SIP waivers are consistent with the NPIS, the 
Agency will also require that establishments operating under the 
updated waivers submit the annual attestation discussed above as a 
condition of their waivers.
    The severability clause states that should a court of competent 
jurisdiction hold any provision of part 381 to be invalid, such action 
shall not affect any other provision of part 381 (9 CFR 381.46).
    As OSHA is the Federal agency with statutory and regulatory 
authority to promote workplace safety and health, FSIS will forward the 
annual attestations to OSHA for further review. OSHA, in turn, may use 
the information in the attestations in its own enforcement program. 
FSIS employees will not be responsible for determining the merit of the 
content of each establishment's monitoring program or enforcement of 
noncompliance with this section. FSIS will work with OSHA to develop 
the poster that establishments must display providing information on 
the signs and symptoms of occupational injuries and illnesses 
experienced by poultry workers, and about workers' rights to report 
these conditions without fear of retaliation.
    Consistent with the mandate of E.O. 12866, OSHA has advised FSIS 
that the development and implementation of such a monitoring program 
will enable establishments both to protect their workers and to 
identify illnesses and injuries. Prompt intervention will also reduce 
the costs associated with worker injury by enabling establishments to 
adjust their processes or implement other appropriate measures before 
additional employees are affected.

G. Changes That Affect All Establishments That Slaughter Poultry Other 
Than Ratites

    In addition to proposing to establish the NPIS, FSIS also proposed 
changes to

[[Page 49601]]

the regulations that would apply to all establishments that slaughter 
poultry other than ratites. The Agency proposed that all poultry 
slaughter establishments develop, implement, and maintain written 
procedures to ensure that carcasses contaminated with visible fecal 
material do not enter the chiller and that they incorporate these 
procedures into their HACCP plans, or sanitation SOPs, or other 
prerequisite programs (77 FR 4426). The Agency also proposed to require 
that all poultry slaughter establishments develop, implement, and 
maintain, as part of their HACCP systems, written procedures to prevent 
contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens, e.g., 
Salmonella and Campylobacter, and fecal material throughout the entire 
slaughter and dressing process, and that they maintain daily records 
sufficient to document the implementation and monitoring of those 
procedures (77 FR 4427). The Agency proposed that at a minimum, these 
procedures must include sampling and analysis for microbial organisms 
at the pre- and post-chill points in the process to monitor process 
control for enteric pathogens.
    The proposed new requirements are designed to ensure that 
establishments incorporate process control measures to prevent 
contamination into their HACCP systems, and that they develop and 
maintain documentation to verify the effectiveness of their procedures 
on an ongoing basis. In the preamble to the proposed rule, the Agency 
explained that it would verify that establishments' procedures are 
effective by reviewing the establishment's monitoring records, 
including the establishment's microbiological testing results, 
observing the establishment implementing its procedures, and inspecting 
carcasses and parts for visible fecal contamination when performing 
both online carcass inspection and offline verification inspection (77 
FR 4427).
    Under the proposed rule, each establishment would be responsible 
for developing and implementing a microbiological sampling plan, which 
would be required to include carcass sampling at pre-chill and post-
chill (77 FR 4428). The Agency also proposed to rescind the regulations 
that require that poultry establishments test for generic E. coli and 
to remove the codified Salmonella pathogen reduction standard for 
poultry. The proposed new microbiological sampling requirements would 
replace the generic E. coli testing regulations and would allow 
establishments to develop sampling plans that are more tailored, and 
thus more effective for monitoring their process control. FSIS would 
consider both the establishment's testing results, as well as the 
results of the Agency's testing Salmonella and Campylobacter 
performance standards, to assess how well the establishment is 
maintaining process control.
    FSIS received several comments on these proposed new requirements.
1. Procedures and Recordkeeping Requirements for Preventing 
Contamination by Enteric Pathogens and Visible Fecal Contamination
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization and an individual 
expressed support for the proposed new requirement that all 
establishments that slaughter poultry develop, implement, and maintain, 
as part of their HACCP systems, written procedures to prevent carcass 
contamination throughout the entire slaughter and dressing process. The 
consumer advocacy organization also supported the proposal to require 
that all poultry slaughter establishments develop, implement, and 
maintain written procedures to ensure that carcasses contaminated with 
visible fecal material do not enter the chiller, and incorporate these 
procedures into their HACCP systems. According to the comments, the 
proposed new requirements address a weakness of the current poultry 
inspection system, which is that verification checks performed at the 
end of the slaughter and chilling process encourage the industry to 
focus its activities on post-process interventions to reduce 
contamination rather than prevention throughout the slaughter process.
    The comments also expressed support for the proposed requirement 
that establishments maintain daily records sufficient to document the 
implementation and monitoring of their procedures for preventing 
contamination by enteric pathogens and fecal material. The comments 
noted that many establishments may have in place process control 
measures that attempt to address contamination by enteric pathogens and 
fecal material, but nothing currently requires that the establishments 
develop and maintain documentation to verify on an ongoing basis that 
these procedures are effective. The comments said that without this 
documentation, establishments can quickly lose process control or rely 
on procedures that contribute to an ongoing risk of contamination. The 
comments stated that the documentation proposed by the Agency will 
allow both the establishment and the Agency to identify points of weak 
process control, and can provide a roadmap for corrective action.
    Response: FSIS agrees that requiring establishments to keep daily 
written records to document the implementation and monitoring of their 
process control procedures is a positive step forward for public 
health. This ongoing documentation will allow both the establishment 
and FSIS to identify specific points in the production process where a 
lack of process control may have resulted in product contamination or 
insanitary conditions. This will allow the establishment to take the 
necessary corrective action to prevent further product contamination.
    Comment: One trade association stated that it is unclear what 
additional steps will be required in regard to sanitary dressing. 
According to this trade association, all of its members already have 
significant sanitary procedures in place.
    Response: As noted above, in the preamble to the proposed rule, 
FSIS acknowledged that many establishments have in place process 
control measures to address the prevention of contamination by enteric 
pathogens and fecal material, but that they are not maintaining 
documentation to verify the effectiveness of these procedures on an 
ongoing basis (77 FR 4427). Under this final rule, establishments will 
be required to incorporate these procedures into their HACCP systems, 
and to maintain ongoing documentation to demonstrate that the 
procedures are effective. As noted above, this ongoing documentation 
will allow both the establishment and FSIS to identify specific points 
in the production process where a lack of process control may have 
resulted in product contamination or insanitary conditions.
2. Sampling and Testing Requirements To Monitor Process Control
a. Sampling Plan and Sampling Sites
    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations and a member of 
academia disagreed with the Agency's proposal to allow each 
establishment to develop its own sampling plan. These comments argued 
that the sampling program needs to be standardized. According to one 
comment, in other countries, such as New Zealand, the government sets 
the testing frequencies and indicator pathogens for the industry.
    One consumer advocacy organization argued that requiring all 
establishments to conduct testing for the same organisms, at the same 
frequency, and at the same locations along the production line will 
provide the Agency and

[[Page 49602]]

stakeholders with valuable data on the impacts of incremental changes 
in production on contamination levels both within a specific 
establishment and industry-wide. According to this comment, under the 
proposed rule, data analysis will be difficult for anyone (e.g., the 
Agency, inspectors, and establishment management) trying to study the 
data because of the variations in sampling at each establishment. 
Another consumer advocacy organization stated that a uniform sampling 
program can help identify additional steps that should be taken to 
address hazards, modernize the system, and ensure facilities are 
operating at line speeds that do not cause poultry contamination to 
rise.
    Response: The purpose of the proposed new sampling requirement is 
to ensure that establishments monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of 
their procedures to prevent contamination of carcasses by enteric 
pathogens and visible fecal material on an ongoing basis. It is not 
intended to generate data to compare establishment performance across 
the industry. The data that FSIS collects from its Salmonella and 
Campylobacter sampling programs serves that purpose. Because 
establishments have differences in their operations, FSIS believes that 
each establishment should have the flexibility to develop a sampling 
plan that will accurately monitor the effectiveness of its process 
control procedures while holding the establishment accountable through 
the Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards. As discussed 
below, the Agency is prescribing a minimum frequency with which all 
poultry establishments will need to collect samples.
    FSIS will scrutinize an establishment's monitoring records, 
including its microbial testing results, to verify the effectiveness of 
the establishment's process control procedures. The Agency will 
continue to assess and compare establishment performance across the 
industry through the Agency's sampling program for Salmonella and 
Campylobacter. Under this program, the samples are collected by FSIS 
inspectors and analyzed by FSIS laboratories, ensuring that the 
sampling and testing program is consistent, and that the Agency is able 
to compare establishment performance and industry trends over time.
    Comment: Several trade associations and an industry member stated 
that, instead of requiring sampling at pre- and post-chill, FSIS should 
allow establishments the flexibility to select the number and sampling 
sites for their individual operations to demonstrate process control. 
These comments argued that each establishment is different and that 
sampling programs must be scientifically based and statistically valid 
and are most effective when they are establishment specific. According 
to these comments, sampling in one location could demonstrate process 
control in one establishment because of certain interventions, but 
sampling in two locations may be more appropriate to demonstrate 
process control in another establishment. One trade association 
believed that providing flexibility in sampling is consistent with 
HACCP principles, encourages industry innovations in operations and 
processing, and enables processors to develop new methods for 
demonstrating process control through sampling.
    Response: As stated in the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS 
believes that microbiological test results that represent levels of 
microbiological contamination at key steps in the slaughter process are 
necessary for establishments to provide comprehensive, objective 
evidence to demonstrate that they are effectively maintaining process 
control to prevent carcasses from becoming contaminated before and 
after they enter the chiller (77 FR 4427). Process control in the 
context of poultry slaughter consists of the programs and procedures an 
establishment implements to ensure its processes are operating as 
intended in preventing contamination (including contamination with 
microbial pathogens and fecal material) of poultry carcasses and parts 
throughout the slaughter and dressing process and to ensure that the 
resulting products meet applicable regulatory standards or definitions. 
Establishments must demonstrate that their process is in control by 
implementing verification procedures, collecting data, and developing 
and maintaining accurate records to demonstrate that their processes 
and procedures are performing as intended and as required.
    An effective process control system entails an establishment 
responding effectively to re-establish control when its ongoing 
verification activities show that its processes or procedures are not 
producing the expected results. Effective process control procedures 
should lead to lower rates of pathogen contamination because 
establishments will discover deficiencies in processing sooner and more 
reliably than would be the case without effective process control 
procedures.
    FSIS considers the microbial characteristics of poultry carcasses 
at pre-chill to be a valuable source of data about how well an 
establishment is minimizing contamination with fecal material and 
enteric pathogens on live birds coming to slaughter and on carcasses 
throughout the evisceration and dressing process. FSIS considers the 
microbial characteristics of poultry carcasses post-chill to be a 
valuable source of data about how well an establishment is minimizing 
contamination during chilling and the overall effectiveness of any 
antimicrobial interventions the establishment has chosen to apply 
throughout its process. Because most establishments apply one or more 
antimicrobial interventions between the pre- and post-chill sampling 
points to help control microbiological hazards, FSIS would expect that 
a reduction in microbiological contamination between these two points 
to be an indication of the effectiveness of those controls.
    Therefore, FSIS is finalizing the proposed requirements that 
establishments collect samples for microbial analysis at the pre- and 
post-chill locations to monitor for process control, with an exception 
for very small and very low volume establishments operating under the 
Traditional Inspection System. This exception is described below.
    Comment: One trade association noted that if the Agency requires 
sampling pre- and post-chill, the Agency needs to clarify that 
establishments have the flexibility to select the sampling locations 
where testing would occur before and after chilling. This comment also 
argued that the Agency should not require a third sampling location at 
re-hang because it would be overly prescriptive, burdensome, and would 
not further food safety.
    Response: Under this final rule, establishments will need to 
collect pre-chill samples before the chiller at the end of the 
evisceration process. The pre-chill testing is intended to monitor the 
effectiveness of all process controls up to the point of the chiller. 
An establishment will need to collect post-chill testing after it has 
completed all interventions, which is the same point in the process 
that FSIS collects samples for Salmonella and Campylobacter 
verification testing.
    As stated in the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS had considered 
requiring a third verification test at the re-hang position to monitor 
the incoming load of pathogens but the Agency concluded that it was not 
necessary to impose the additional costs that would be associated with 
testing at this point (77 FR 4428).

[[Page 49603]]

    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization argued that allowing each 
establishment to use different tests with different indicator organisms 
and standards for verifying that their process controls are effective 
will create problems for inspectors. According to the comment, FSIS 
inspectors will have to determine on a case-by-case basis whether each 
test chosen is validated for that purpose and whether the standard used 
by the establishment is adequate. This comment stated that determining 
whether a HACCP plan is effective would be more complex for inspectors, 
whereas the current generic E. coli testing program that FSIS proposed 
to rescind provides an objective test and standard which are familiar 
to FSIS and industry.
    Response: As stated in the preamble to the proposed rule, because 
an establishment's microbiological sampling plan will be part of its 
HACCP system, each establishment will be required to provide scientific 
or technical documentation to support the judgments made in designing 
its sampling plan (77 FR 4428). FSIS inspection personnel will verify 
the effectiveness of the establishment's sampling plan by reviewing the 
supporting documentation and verifying that the establishment is 
implementing its sampling plan as designed. These procedures are 
consistent with the methodology that inspectors use to verify the 
effectiveness of other measures incorporated into an establishment's 
HACCP system. In addition, FSIS intends to provide training to its 
inspectors and guidance to industry on all of the new requirements 
under this final rule, including the new sampling plans. The Agency's 
inspection personnel will be prepared to carry out their 
responsibilities to ensure the effectiveness of establishments HACCP 
systems, including the new sampling requirements, when this final rule 
becomes effective.
b. Very Small and Very Low Volume Establishment Sampling
    Comment: A State Department of Agriculture said that there should 
be two sampling locations for all establishments, but that the sampling 
frequency should be scale-dependent, e.g., the frequency should be 
decreased for very small establishments. The comment noted that it is 
just as important in a very small establishment as a large one to 
maintain and document process control, but very small establishments 
will have proportionally more difficulty than large establishments in 
absorbing the costs for a second sampling location.
    One industry member stated that sampling at small and very small 
establishments should be the same as at all other establishments. This 
industry member believed that the specific processes and programs in 
place, not the size of the establishment or the volume of production, 
should determine how process control is demonstrated.
    Response: In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS noted that 
small and very small low volume establishments that choose to operate 
under the revised Traditional Inspection System may not need to conduct 
testing for microbial organisms at two points in the slaughter process 
to adequately monitor process control (77 FR 4428). These 
establishments typically are less automated and run at slower line 
speeds than larger establishments operating under SIS, NELS, and NTIS. 
The lower level of automation and the slower line speeds require less 
complicated measures for maintaining and monitoring process control on 
an ongoing basis. Therefore, after considering this issue, FSIS has 
decided to revise the proposed rule to allow very small and very low 
volume establishments that operate under the modified Traditional 
Inspection System to collect and analyze samples for microbial 
organisms at the post-chill point in the process only. As stated in the 
preamble to the proposed rule, very low volume establishments would 
include those classified as very low volume establishments under the 
existing generic E. coli testing regulations (77 FR 4428). To make this 
clear, the Agency is establishing a codified definition for very low 
volume establishments that is based on the existing very low volume 
establishments definition under 9 CFR 381.94(2)(v), i.e., 
establishments that annually slaughter no more than 440,000 chickens, 
60,000 turkeys, 60,000 ducks, 60,000 geese, 60,000 guineas, or 60,000 
squabs.
    Under this rule, if FSIS has evidence to indicate that a very small 
or very low volume establishment conducting sampling at a single point 
in the process is not maintaining process control, such as not meeting 
FSIS's pathogen performance standards, the establishment will need to 
conduct additional testing or implement additional measures to ensure 
that its process remains in control.
c. Sampling Frequency
    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations requested that 
FSIS explain how it developed the estimates on how frequently 
establishments will conduct testing to monitor their process control 
procedures. The comments noted that FSIS estimated that large 
establishments will perform the prescribed tests 15 times a day, small 
establishments 7 times a day, and very small establishments 3 times a 
day. One of the consumer advocacy organizations asked that the Agency 
explain the justification for the presumed sample size. The comment 
stated that by providing clarification on the source of these 
estimates, stakeholders can better ascertain whether they represent a 
reasonable estimate of testing frequency.
    Response: The estimates on how frequently establishments will 
conduct sampling under the proposed rule are from the proposed rule's 
Paperwork Reduction Act paperwork burden estimates. These estimates 
were based on the frequency with which establishments operating under a 
SIP waiver conduct sampling. Under SIP, FSIS grants establishments a 
waiver of regulations under the condition that the establishment 
collects and analyzes samples for microbial organisms and shares the 
results with FSIS. As discussed below, FSIS is revising the proposed 
rule to prescribe a minimum frequency with which all establishments 
that slaughter poultry will need to conduct testing for microbial 
organism to monitor their process control procedures. Thus, FSIS has 
updated its paperwork burden estimates to reflect these changes.
    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations and a member of 
academia asserted that FSIS needs to prescribe the frequency with which 
establishments must conduct sampling. One consumer advocacy 
organization stated that establishments need to collect samples at a 
specified frequency to evaluate whether any changes implemented by the 
establishment as a result of the proposed rule have positive or 
negative effects on rates of contamination. A consumer advocacy 
organization argued that FSIS needs to require a specific testing 
frequency per line and per shift to ensure that establishments achieve 
sufficient testing for pathogens. Another consumer advocacy 
organization suggested that FSIS require testing frequency per 
production day based on production volume. One comment expressed 
concern that poultry establishments have little incentive to incur 
costs to test beyond a very minimum frequency that may not be 
sufficient to monitor process control.
    One trade association stated that FSIS should not remove the 
generic E. coli

[[Page 49604]]

testing regulation because it includes 9 CFR 381.94(a)(2)(v), which 
establishes definitions for very low volume establishments and provides 
sampling frequencies for very low volume establishments. This trade 
association asserted that specific testing frequencies for very low 
volume establishments should remain in the regulations.
    Several trade associations stated that FSIS should not prescribe 
how often establishments must collect samples for testing. These trade 
associations supported the flexibility in sampling frequency because 
they believed sampling should be specific to an individual 
establishment's programs and processes.
    Response: After considering the comments from the consumer advocacy 
organizations, FSIS believes that there is merit to requiring a minimum 
frequency of testing to ensure that establishments will be able to 
detect changes in processing or inconsistencies that may occur. FSIS 
expects that for their sampling plans, most establishments will adopt 
sampling frequencies that are similar to what is required under the 
existing generic E. coli testing regulations because sampling less 
frequently may affect the establishment's ability to detect problems 
with their process controls in a timely manner. However, as indicated 
by some of the comments, there is some concern that some establishments 
may attempt to reduce sampling to a very low frequency. While a very 
low testing frequency may be sufficient if the establishment is able to 
consistently maintain process control, it could also decrease the 
establishment's ability to detect changes or inconsistencies in 
processing that may occur.
    Therefore, to address concerns about minimal sampling frequencies 
expressed by the consumer advocacy organizations, FSIS is revising the 
proposed sampling requirements to prescribe a minimum frequency with 
which establishments will be required to collect a pair of samples, one 
at pre-chill and one at post-chill, or, for very small and very low 
volume establishments that operate under Traditional Inspection, a 
single post-chill sample. Under this final rule, establishments will be 
required to collect samples at a frequency of once per 22,000 processed 
carcasses for chickens and once per 3,000 processed carcasses for 
turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, and squabs. These frequencies reflect 
the frequencies prescribed under the existing regulations for generic 
E. coli testing.
    Under the existing generic E. coli testing regulations, very low 
volume establishments that slaughter turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, 
squabs, or ratites in the largest number must collect at least one 
sample during each week of operation each year but may stop sampling 
after 13 samples have been collected (9 CFR 381.94(a)(2)(v)). This 
final rule includes a similar provision that will apply to very low 
volume establishments to minimize the additional sampling costs to 
these establishments, many of which are also small or very small 
establishments. Thus, under this rule, if, after consecutively 
collecting 13 weekly samples, a very low volume establishment 
demonstrates that it is effectively maintaining process control, FSIS 
will allow it to modify its sampling plan. For example, after 
collecting 13 weekly samples, a very low volume establishment could 
collect samples less frequently, such as once a month, and use visual 
observation and documentation at control points to monitor process 
control. FSIS will provide guidance to very low volume establishments 
in developing alternative sampling plans and establish criteria, e.g., 
lower limit (m) and upper limit (M) values for test results, that will 
allow them to effectively monitor process control.
    Because ratites were not subject to the proposed rule, 
establishments that slaughter ratites will continue to follow the 
generic E. coli testing regulations in 9 CFR 381.94(a). These 
regulations have been revised to remove all other poultry classes.
    As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, the frequency with 
which establishments will need to conduct testing to monitor for 
process control will depend on a number of factors, including their 
production volume, the source of their flocks, their slaughter and 
dressing processes, and the consistency of their microbial test results 
(77 FR 4428). Therefore, the prescribed minimum sampling frequencies 
may not necessarily be appropriate for every establishment to monitor 
process control. Some establishment may need to sample more frequently 
to effectively monitor process control. Because the testing frequency 
will be an integral part of an establishment's HACCP system 
verification procedures, establishments will need to collect and 
maintain data to demonstrate that their testing frequency is adequate 
to verify the effectiveness of their process control procedures.
    Comment: Several trade associations stated that the source of 
flocks should not be a factor in determining the frequency of 
establishment testing. According to some of the comments, interventions 
at establishments ensure that only unadulterated product leaves the 
establishment, no matter where poultry is raised. One trade association 
added that the best methods of controlling Salmonella occur in the 
establishments, not on the farm. This trade association stated that the 
decontamination process during slaughter has allowed the industry to 
reduce its carcass swab incidence of Salmonella to less than 1.75 
percent. Additionally, this comment noted that during a September 23, 
2011, meeting, USDA's NACMPI rejected efforts to tie flock source to 
process control because adequate science doesn't currently exist to 
support such a relationship.
    Additionally, one trade association believed that production volume 
and slaughter and dressing processes should not be factors in 
determining sampling frequencies. This comment argued that the manner 
with which establishments demonstrate process control does not vary 
with the operations being conducted. Several trade associations stated 
that sampling frequency depends on an establishment's total food safety 
system, not variables like volume or flock source that are already 
accounted for.
    Response: The proposed rule did not prescribe specific factors that 
establishments would need to consider when developing their 
microbiological sampling plans. However, because establishments are 
required to incorporate their sampling plans into their HACCP systems, 
they will be required to provide scientific or technical documentation 
to support the judgments made in designing their sampling plans. In the 
preamble to the proposed rule, the Agency stated that the frequency 
with which establishments will need to collect samples for analysis 
will depend on a number of factors, including, among other factors, 
their production volume, and source of their flocks. As noted above, 
even though the Agency is establishing a minimum testing frequency for 
establishments to monitor process control, establishments will be 
required to consider any factors that are relevant to their production 
process to determine the sampling frequency that will be effective for 
their operation to meet regulatory requirements.
    FSIS is not requiring that establishments address specific factors, 
such as flock source, to determine sampling frequency. However, because 
establishments are required to incorporate their sampling programs into 
their HACCP systems, they will need to provide scientific support for

[[Page 49605]]

the decisions made in determining the sampling frequency.
d. Indicator Organisms and Baseline
    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations argued that 
instead of allowing establishments to choose which organism to test 
for, FSIS should require that establishments test for Salmonella and 
Campylobacter. The comments said that these are the two pathogens of 
greatest public health concern in the products affected by the proposed 
rule and together account for nearly half of all poultry-related 
outbreaks in the United States. One comment added that establishments 
could still test for additional pathogens or indicator organisms as 
warranted. One member of academia suggested that rapid testing be used 
for Salmonella at pre- and post-chill testing locations, rather than an 
indicator organism such as generic E. coli, because Salmonella is the 
leading cause of bacterial foodborne disease.
    Response: As discussed above, the purpose of the proposed new 
testing requirements is to ensure that establishments are effectively 
monitoring process control on an ongoing basis. FSIS has determined 
that this can be achieved by sampling pre- and post-chill for enteric 
pathogens, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, or for an appropriate 
indicator organism. The comments did not include any data to cause FSIS 
to question this conclusion.
    As discussed above, to effectively monitor their process control 
procedures, establishments will need to conduct testing at a frequency 
that is sufficient to detect a loss of process control soon after it 
occurs so that they can take the necessary corrective actions to 
prevent further product contamination. Because the percentage of 
carcasses that are expected to show positive test results for 
Salmonella and Campylobacter is small when compared with the percentage 
of carcasses that are expected to show positive results for indicator 
organisms, establishments would need to analyze a large number of 
samples for Salmonella or Campylobacter to detect a loss of control, 
much larger than when using an appropriate indicator organism, 
everything else being equal. The cost to analyze samples for Salmonella 
and Campylobacter is much greater than that to analyze for indicator 
organisms.\15\ Thus, the costs to effectively monitor a process using 
Salmonella and Campylobacter measurements would likely be considerably 
more expensive than the costs to monitor the process using measurements 
of levels of indicator organisms. FSIS has concluded that such costs 
would not be justifiable when measurements of indicator organisms are 
as effective for monitoring process control as measurements of 
pathogens.\16\ \17\ \18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ Laboratory cost for analyzing for Salmonella and 
Campylobacter could exceed $300 per sample though we expect costs 
would vary, and could be less, depending upon number of tests and 
laboratory availability. The costs of analyzing these pathogens we 
expect to be more than 10-fold greater than the costs for analyzing 
for indicator organisms.
    \16\ Altekruse, S.F., Berrang, M.E., Marks, H., Patel, B., Shaw, 
W.K., Sani, P., Bennett, P.A., and Baily, J.S., 2009, Enumeration of 
Escherichia coli Cells on Chicken Carcasses as a Potential Measure 
of Microbial Process Control in a Random Selection of Slaughter 
Establishments in the United States, Applied and Environmental 
Microbiology, 75(9): 3522-3527.
    \17\ Berrang, M.E., Bailey, J.S., Altekruse, S.F., and Shaw, 
W.K., 2008, J. Appl. Poultry Res 17: 354-360.
    \18\ Habib, I., De Zutter, L, Van Huffel, X., Geeraerd, A.H., 
and Uyttendaele, M., 2012, Potential of Escherichia coli as a 
Surrogate Indicator for Postchill Broilers with High Campylobacter 
Counts, Food Control 25: 96-100.
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    Comment: Several consumer advocacy organizations and a member of 
academia recommended that FSIS require that establishments conduct 
testing for a specific period of time that can be statistically 
justified to provide baseline testing data before the Agency moves 
forward with any changes to its poultry slaughter inspection program. 
One of the comments added that the baseline testing data will allow 
FSIS and the establishment to determine how changes to the poultry 
slaughter system impact pathogen rates at the establishment. Another 
comment stated that FSIS should require the continuous generation of 
baseline data for a period of at least 90 days prior to implementing 
other substantive changes to the poultry inspection system.
    Response: FSIS is requiring that establishments collect and analyze 
samples for microbial organisms to monitor the effectiveness of their 
process control procedures. As noted above, establishments will be 
responsible for determining which microbiological organisms will best 
help them to monitor the effectiveness of their process controls. The 
establishment's baseline for its sampling plan will depend on the 
organism that it selects. Establishments that choose to collect and 
analyze samples for indicator microbial organisms rather than 
pathogens, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, will be responsible 
for developing their own baseline for these organisms because the 
Agency is not establishing performance standards for indicator 
organisms. Of course, some establishments may already have data that 
they can use to develop a baseline. For those that do not, the length 
of time an establishment will need to develop a baseline will depend on 
several factors, including the volume of birds it slaughters, the 
number of lines, and the number of sources from which the establishment 
receives birds.
    Establishments must have developed their sampling plans before the 
effective dates established in this final rule. The sampling plan must 
be made part of the establishment's HACCP system, and as such, the 
establishment is required to provide scientific or technical 
documentation to support the effectiveness of its sampling plan, which 
may include the development of an appropriate baseline to allow them to 
detect changes or inconsistencies in microbial levels that may occur 
during the slaughter and evisceration process.
3. Rescind Testing for Generic E. coli for Establishments That 
Slaughter Poultry Other Than Ratites
    In the proposed rule, FSIS explained that it was proposing to 
rescind the generic E. coli testing requirements in 9 CFR 381.94 and 
replace them with a new testing requirement that allow establishments 
to sample for other, potentially more useful indicator organisms. The 
new testing requirements were discussed above. FSIS received some 
comments on this aspect of the proposed rule (77 FR 4428).
    Comment: Comments from a consumer advocacy organization and a 
member of academia said FSIS should not rescind the existing 
regulations that prescribe testing for generic E. coli. A consumer 
advocacy organization said that rescinding this regulation will remove 
performance standards as a regulatory matter, expose consumers to 
greater risks from contaminated poultry, and reduce options for 
enforcement. One member of academia also stated that given that USDA 
studies have shown that E. coli can serve as a reservoir or source of 
transferable genetic determinants for antimicrobial resistance in 
foodborne pathogens, testing for generic E. coli should not be 
rescinded.
    A consumer advocacy organization presented various arguments that, 
according to the organization, show that FSIS did not adequately 
support its decision to rescind the generic E. coli sampling 
requirements. First the comment asserted that FSIS inappropriately 
relied on a 2004 report of the National Advisory Committee on 
Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) as a basis for rescinding 
the rule. Second, the comment argued that

[[Page 49606]]

the studies that FSIS referenced that indicate that the presence of 
generic E. coli on young chicken carcasses may be a result of 
infectious process or air saculitis, and do not provide a basis for 
rescinding the generic E. coli testing regulations. According to the 
comment, regardless of whether the source of contamination is fecal or 
an infected carcass, testing and performance standards are still 
relevant because detecting generic E. coli would be evidence of 
problems in the establishment's process controls.
    Response: As discussed in the preamble to the proposed rule, the 
Agency's experience with the generic E. coli testing regulations has 
led the Agency to conclude that such testing may not be the most 
effective way for establishments to monitor the effectiveness of their 
process control procedures.
    The existing generic E. coli performance criteria represent the 
distribution of measured generic E. coli results observed in FSIS's 
1994 baseline survey of young chicken slaughter establishments. Since 
FSIS implemented the generic E. coli testing requirements, 
establishments have made changes to their processes that have led to 
further reductions in the detectable levels of generic E. coli on 
carcasses post-chill. The most recent young chicken baseline conducted 
from 2007-2008 shows that the levels of detectable generic E. coli on 
post-chill carcasses are well below the performance criteria in the 
existing regulations and that over 60 percent of the sample 
measurements had non-detectable levels of generic E. coli.
    Data from FSIS's 2007-2008 Young Chicken Baseline survey show that 
there were 12 establishments from which 10 or more samples were 
analyzed during the survey and none with detectable levels of generic 
E. coli. FSIS analyzed 22 samples each in 2 of these establishments. 
All 44 samples had detectable Aerobic Plate Count (APC) measurements 
even though none had detectable generic E. coli measurements. Thus, for 
these establishments, it might be more efficient to use APC counts 
instead of generic E. coli counts to monitor for process control 
because a higher percentage of samples would be expected to have 
measurable APC levels even when generic E. coli levels are not 
detected.
    In addition, FSIS used the most recent baseline survey of young 
chicken establishments to perform correlation analyses of pathogen 
presence and measured levels of indicator organisms on carcasses. The 
results indicate that measured APC levels at re-hang were more highly 
correlated with Salmonella presence at re-hang than were measured E. 
coli levels. Such results suggest that APC measurements might provide a 
better measure of process control.
    Although the Agency has determined that the existing post-chill 
testing for generic E. coli may not be the most effective means for 
monitoring process control, establishments may sample for generic E. 
coli or any other indicator organism pre- and post-chill, or for very 
small and very low volume establishments operating under Traditional 
Inspection, post-chill only, if the establishment provides scientific 
or technical documentation to demonstrate that the use of a specific 
indicator organism is appropriate for monitoring the establishment's 
process control procedures.
4. Rescind Codified Salmonella Performance Standards
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that because 
it can effectively address pathogen reduction in poultry establishments 
through its new Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards and 
the SIP, the Agency was proposing to rescind the codified Salmonella 
pathogen reduction performance standards in 9 CFR 381.94(b). The Agency 
also explained that, since 2001, after a ruling by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Supreme Beef Processors, Inc. v. USDA, 
the Agency's ability to directly enforce the codified Salmonella 
pathogen reduction performance standards has been limited. FSIS 
received several comments from consumer advocacy organizations on its 
decision to rescind the codified standards.
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization said that in developing 
the proposed rule, FSIS should have considered the alternative of 
retaining both the generic E. coli testing requirements and the 
codified Salmonella performance standards as a way to ensure that an 
establishment's processes are under control and its products meet a 
minimum level of sanitation. The comment said that FSIS should retain 
its ability to monitor end-products for fecal and microbial 
contamination through mandated testing and performance standards. The 
comment asserted that in rescinding the E. coli and Salmonella testing 
provisions and their associated performance standards, FSIS is removing 
a useful verification check.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comments. The Agency does not 
believe that it needs to retain the existing codified generic E. coli 
performance criteria and the existing codified Salmonella performance 
standards to verify that establishments' processes are in control and 
that the products meet a minimum level of sanitation. The reasons the 
Agency is rescinding the generic E. coli testing requirements were 
discussed above. The new testing requirements will give establishments 
the flexibility to sample for other potentially more useful indicator 
organisms to monitor for process control.
    As noted above, the Agency is rescinding the codified Salmonella 
performance standards because it can effectively address pathogen 
reduction in poultry establishments through its new Salmonella and 
Campylobacter performance standards and the SIP. FSIS will continue to 
collect verification samples and analyze them for Salmonella and 
Campylobacter and compare the results to the Agency's most recent 
performance standards for these pathogens. The Agency will also 
continue to post the names of establishments that fail to meet the new 
performance standards on the Agency's Web site and will continue to use 
an establishment's failures to meet the standard as a basis for 
conducting an in-depth evaluation of the establishment's food safety 
system.
    Comment: Some comments disagreed with the Agency's proposal to 
rescind the codified Salmonella performance standards. The comments 
said that under the existing regulations, an establishment's consistent 
failure to comply with the Salmonella performance standards or take the 
corrective actions necessary to comply with the standards constitutes a 
failure to maintain sanitary conditions and to maintain an adequate 
HACCP plan. The comments said that the codified Salmonella performance 
standard is important because it informs poultry establishments of 
their responsibilities to control their processes and the consequences 
of repeated failures to do so.
    The comments stated that rather than removing the codified 
performance standards, the Agency should instead focus on updating 
them. The comments noted that the Agency has developed new performance 
standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken and turkey 
slaughter establishments. The comments suggested that the Agency 
replace the existing codified Salmonella performance standards with the 
new Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards.
    Response: One difficulty with establishing codified pathogen

[[Page 49607]]

reduction performance standards, as suggested by the comments, is that, 
although these standards may represent an appropriate level of pathogen 
reduction at the time they were established, over time, as 
establishments make adjustments to their processes to meet these 
standards, the standards may no longer be an effective means for 
accomplishing pathogen reduction. The Agency's codified Salmonella 
performance standards demonstrate the need for flexibility to update 
performance standards based on changes in baseline levels for the 
pathogens of concern.
    As discussed in the preamble to the proposed rule, since 2001, 
after the ruling in Supreme Beef Processors, Inc. v. USDA, the Agency's 
ability to directly enforce the codified Salmonella pathogen reduction 
performance standards has been limited (77 FR 4412). Therefore, after 
the Supreme Beef ruling, the Agency began using Salmonella failures as 
a basis to conduct an in-depth evaluation of an establishment's food 
safety system. In 2006, after an intensive review of the results of 
several years of Salmonella testing that showed a trend of increasing 
prevalence of Salmonella in young chickens, FSIS initiated policies to 
reduce Salmonella. One of those initiatives was to create three 
establishment performance categories for Salmonella based on the 
codified performance standards. The new performance Category 1 
represented the best performing establishments and was defined as not 
more than half the regulatory standard. Category 2 was set at more than 
half, but, did not exceeding the regulatory standard. Category 3 
establishments exceeded the standard, and represented the worse 
performing establishments. FSIS began publishing the names of young 
chicken establishments in Category 2 and 3 in March 2008, and has 
continued to publish the names of establishments in Category 3 on or 
about the 15th of each month.
    After it established the new Salmonella performance categories, 
FSIS completed new young chicken and turkey baselines in 2008 and 2009 
respectively. In May 2010, the Agency announced that it had developed 
tightened performance standards for Salmonella and a new performance 
standard for Campylobacter for chilled carcasses in young chicken and 
turkey slaughter establishments based on the new baseline results. In 
March 2011, the Agency announced that it would implement the new 
standards starting in July 2011 and that when two sets per 
establishment are completed, the Agency will post the names of young 
chicken and turkey establishments that fail the new Salmonella 
standards, i.e., Category 3, on the Agency's Web site. The new, more 
stringent standards are used in place of the codified Salmonella 
performance standards.

H. Elimination of Time/Temperature Chilling Requirements

    In the January 2012 proposed rule, FSIS proposed to replace the 
regulations that prescribe the specific time and temperature parameters 
needed to chill RTC poultry with a requirement that poultry slaughter 
establishments develop written procedures, and implement and maintain 
these procedures to control the levels and prevent the multiplication 
of spoilage organisms and pathogenic bacteria in the product after 
evisceration (77 FR 4430). Establishments would be required to 
incorporate these procedures into their HACCP plans, or sanitation 
SOPs, or other prerequisite programs. The Agency also proposed to 
define ``air chilling'' as the method of chilling raw poultry carcasses 
and parts exclusively with air. In the preamble to the proposal, the 
Agency explained that under the proposed definition, an antimicrobial 
intervention that is applied with water may be used for a short 
duration if its use does not result in any pick-up of water or 
moisture, and if it does not assist the chilling process by lowering 
the product temperature. FSIS received comments on the proposed 
revision to its poultry chilling requirements as well as on the 
proposed definition of air chilling.
    Comment: One comment supported the Agency's decision to permit 
establishments to develop and validate their own chilling processes 
while still retaining the current chilling processes as a validated 
safe harbor. The comment said that this approach was consistent with 
the Agency's policies favoring a scientifically based approach to food 
safety. The comment suggested that FSIS provide guidance on how 
establishments should validate new chilling processes to facilitate 
compliance and encourage innovative chilling processes. The comment 
also said that the Agency should also reiterate the safe harbor 
provisions in the final rule.
    Response: As discussed in the proposed rule, establishments will be 
required to incorporate their procedures for chilling into their HACCP 
systems. Thus, establishments will need to validate their chilling 
procedures as prescribed in the HACCP validation regulations (9 CFR 
417.4(a)). Under these regulations, establishments are required to: (1) 
Document the scientific or technical support for the judgments made in 
their chilling process and (2) repeatedly test the adequacy of their 
chilling process controls to demonstrate that their chilling process 
will perform as expected. As stated in the preamble to the proposed 
rule, FSIS will consider the existing time and temperature chilling 
regulations as safe harbors and will incorporate these requirements 
into compliance guidance on meeting the new chilling requirements.
    Comment: Two labor unions commented that it is unsound for the 
Agency to eliminate time and temperature chilling requirements and 
replace them with a performance-based approach that permits 
establishments to develop their own validated chilling procedures. One 
of the labor unions said that because the proposed rule will allow 
poultry slaughter establishments to select any chilling technique they 
please, small and medium establishments may eviscerate 175 bpm now and 
worry about adequate chilling later. According to the comment, the 
proposal to eliminate the time and temperature requirements is an 
attempt by the Agency to accommodate those small and medium-sized 
slaughter establishments that cannot safely increase production to 175 
bpm under the NPIS but that have no choice but to adopt the new system.
    Response: The comments that suggest that the prescribed new 
chilling requirements will allow poultry slaughter establishments to 
increase line speeds before they have developed effective chilling 
procedures is incorrect. Under this final rule, establishments are 
required to develop, implement, and maintain validated chilling 
procedures that will effectively control the levels and prevent the 
multiplication of spoilage organisms and pathogenic bacteria before 
they may operate at any given line speed. In addition, the maximum line 
speed under the NPIS is 140 bpm and not 175 bpm, as was proposed.
    FSIS also disagrees with the comment that the decision to amend the 
poultry chilling requirements is not a sound proposal. To the contrary, 
and as noted in the preamble to the proposal, FSIS has granted SIP 
waivers from the time and temperature regulations to six poultry 
slaughter establishments. The data collected from these establishments 
demonstrate that alternative chilling procedures can be as effective as 
the prescribed time and temperature requirements in controlling the 
levels and preventing the multiplication of spoilage organisms and 
pathogenic bacteria in the product after

[[Page 49608]]

evisceration. Under this rule, establishments will be required to 
incorporate procedures for chilling into their validated HACCP systems. 
These written procedures will include the conditions of use affecting 
carcass chilling and microbial multiplication identified by the 
establishment.
    Comment: A trade association recommended that FSIS clarify the 
definition of air chilled poultry to accommodate reasonable 
applications of antimicrobials using small amounts of water. The 
comment said that these applications are not designed to affect cooling 
or moisture pick-up, but that a strict technical reading of the 
proposed rule might be interpreted to prohibit their use. The comment 
suggested that the Agency revise the air chilling definition to permit 
antimicrobial applications applied with water if the water is used for 
a short duration and does not materially contribute to the chilling 
process or result in a material amount of water pick-up. According to 
the comment, this change would align the proposal with industry 
practice currently permitted by the Agency.
    A company that has created a combination air chilling system that 
begins with antimicrobial dips of birds at the end of the slaughter 
process requested that the Agency revise the proposed definitions of 
air chilling to make clear that poultry chilled using this process 
qualify as ``air chilled.''
    The comment explained that under its chilling system, poultry 
carcasses are subject to an antimicrobial dip that lasts for 20-90 
seconds at the end of the slaughter process and then are air chilled 
without any water or sprays. According to the company, the combination 
system results in no moisture pick-up when the entire process is viewed 
from start to finish, but there is an unavoidable reduction of product 
temperature because of the antimicrobial dip tanks prior to the start 
of air chilling. The company requested that FSIS permit the use of an 
``air chilled'' claim for a process that begins with antimicrobial dips 
of limited duration immediately prior to air chilling, regardless of a 
reduction in product temperature because of the antimicrobial 
treatment, provided there is no pick-up of moisture for the entire 
process.
    According to the company, antimicrobials are generally more 
effective if applied when the carcasses are warm, i.e., directly after 
evisceration and before chilling, and its combination system has been 
shown to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter. The company argued that 
allowing products chilled with this combination system to bear an ``air 
chilled'' label will provide marketing benefits and encourage 
establishments to adopt this food safety innovation.
    The company also stated that its combination system has been 
recognized as an air chill system by the European Union. According to 
the comment, if FSIS were to adopt the proposed ``air chilled'' 
definition, poultry chilled using the combination system would be 
allowed to be labeled as ``air chilled'' in the European Union but not 
in the United States because the system reduces the product 
temperature. The company stated the FSIS should allow establishments to 
choose when chilling begins, so that establishments could treat the 
antimicrobial dip tanks in a combination system as an intervention in 
the slaughter process, so that the chilling would begin after the 
intervention.
    Alternatively, the company requested that FSIS revise proposed 9 
CFR 381.66(e) to read ``Air chilling. Air chilling is the method of 
chilling raw poultry carcasses and parts exclusively with air. No 
water, including mists or sprays, may be used to help chill the 
product. However, an antimicrobial intervention with water may be used 
provided its use does not result in any pick-up of water or moisture 
and the majority of the chilling time consists of chilling exclusively 
with air.''
    Response: After carefully considering these comments, FSIS believes 
they have merit. Therefore, FSIS is revising the proposed definition of 
air chilling to read as follows:
    ``Air chilling is the method of chilling raw poultry carcasses and 
parts predominantly with air. An antimicrobial intervention may be 
applied with water at the beginning of the chilling process if its use 
does not result in any net pick-up of water or moisture during the 
chilling process. The initial antimicrobial intervention may result in 
some temperature reduction of the product only if the majority of 
temperature removal is accomplished exclusively by chilled air.''
    FSIS believes the revised definition will allow change and 
innovation by industry, while still meeting the essential criteria for 
approval of the ``air-chilled'' labeling claim, i.e., that the majority 
of chilling is accomplished with air and the process does not result in 
any pick-up of water or moisture. By allowing an antimicrobial 
intervention to reduce to a non-material extent the product 
temperature, FSIS will provide more opportunities for industry to apply 
antimicrobial interventions without delaying the start of the chilling 
process. This may well provide industry with more options to develop 
and apply innovative antimicrobial interventions to improve the 
microbiological characteristics of poultry products by reducing the 
numbers of foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms. By applying 
antimicrobial interventions at a temperature that results in partial 
chilling of the poultry products, industry may be able to make those 
interventions more effective, while also decreasing the overall time to 
chill the product.
    FSIS has determined that this change in the definition of ``air 
chilling'' will not result in mislabeling or the misleading of 
consumers because it preserves the two essential characteristics that 
FSIS considers when reviewing ``air chilled'' labeling claims: (1) That 
the product does not gain moisture from the chilling process and (2) 
that the majority of the temperature reduction is done by chilled air.

I. Online Reprocessing

    In the January 2012 proposed rule, FSIS proposed to permit poultry 
slaughter establishments to use approved online reprocessing 
antimicrobial systems and offline reprocessing antimicrobial agents 
including chlorinated water containing 20 ppm to 50 ppm available 
chlorine or other antimicrobial agents that have been approved as safe 
and suitable for reprocessing poultry (77 FR 4432). The Agency proposed 
to require that establishments address the use of online or offline 
reprocessing in their HACCP plans, or sanitation SOPs, or other 
prerequisite programs. FSIS received a few comments on these proposed 
new requirements.
    Comment: Two trade associations expressed support for amending the 
regulations to permit the use of safe and suitable substances for both 
online and offline reprocessing, thereby eliminating the need for 
individualized waivers for the use of these technologies.
    One trade association recommended that the Agency eliminate the 
distinction between online and offline reprocessing and instead require 
that establishments justify the appropriate use of safe and suitable 
antimicrobials in their HACCP plans. According to the comment, 
establishments already must validate their processes, including the 
antimicrobials used in reprocessing. The comment asserted that a 
formalistic FSIS distinction serves no meaningful purpose and may 
confuse issues and deter innovation. The comment said that limiting 
uses of certain antimicrobials to online or offline

[[Page 49609]]

reprocessing overlooks the fact that all poultry must meet the same 
standards. The comment said that relying on individual establishment 
validations would reflect a more scientifically sound approach. The 
comment said if FSIS has concerns about the appropriateness of 
particular antimicrobials for certain applications, the Agency can 
limit the conditions of use for the antimicrobial when listing the 
antimicrobial as safe and suitable for use in poultry products.
    Response: FSIS is maintaining the distinction between online and 
offline reprocessing in this final rule because there are differences 
between the two processes that require separate regulatory 
requirements.
    Establishments that use offline reprocessing remove the carcasses 
accidentally contaminated with digestive tract contents from the main 
slaughter line and reprocess them at a designated offline station in 
any manner that will remove the contamination, such as vacuuming, 
washing, and trimming, singly or in combination. Establishments that 
reprocess carcasses online are permitted to leave the contaminated 
carcasses on the main slaughter line. The carcasses then proceed to an 
online reprocessing station where the contamination is removed by an 
approved antimicrobial agent that is applied to all carcasses on the 
line. The provisions in this final rule that permit poultry slaughter 
establishment to use approved online reprocessing antimicrobial systems 
and offline reprocessing antimicrobial agents do not affect the 
separate procedures used for offline or online reprocessing. Thus, this 
final rule maintains the distinction between the two processes.
    Comment: A member of academia commented that issues related to 
online reprocessing are complex and suggested that instead of 
addressing online reprocessing provisions in this rulemaking, FSIS 
should provide for online reprocessing in a separate rulemaking. 
According to the comment, two problems arise from online reprocessing. 
The comment said that first, carcasses will be allowed to remain on the 
line despite visible fecal contamination, and second, that the use of 
online reprocessing antimicrobial agents requires that all carcasses be 
treated with unspecified antimicrobial agents whether contaminated or 
not. The comment asserted that the data on online reprocessing that 
FSIS described in the preamble to the proposed rule do not provide 
sufficient information to determine whether the process can meet 
sanitary standards. The comment said that, before FSIS finalizes the 
rule, it needs to ensure that establishments conduct more pilot testing 
under the supervision of disinterested parties.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the commenter. With respect to the 
comment that all carcasses will be treated with ``unspecified 
antimicrobial agents,'' as noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, 
before a new substance can be used as an online reprocessing agent, the 
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will determine the safety of the 
substance for use in online reprocessing and FSIS will determine its 
suitability (77 FR 4433). Establishments opting to use online 
reprocessing will be permitted to use online reprocessing systems and 
antimicrobial agents that have been approved by FSIS under the specific 
conditions of use for which they have been approved. FSIS will list all 
antimicrobial agents that have been approved for use in online 
reprocessing, together with the specific parameters of use under which 
the antimicrobial agents have been approved, in FSIS Directive 7120.1: 
``Safe and Suitable Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat, 
Poultry, and Egg Products.''
    FSIS also disagrees with the comment that the data on online 
reprocessing do not provide sufficient information to determine whether 
the process can meet sanitary standards. As discussed in the preamble 
to the proposed rule, when FSIS published the proposed rule, 144 
poultry slaughter establishments were operating under waivers that 
allowed them to use online systems to reprocess carcasses accidentally 
contaminated with digestive tract contents (77 FR 4432). The data 
generated from the in-plant trials conducted under these waivers show 
that various online antimicrobial treatments have differing but equally 
effective results with respect to pathogen reduction. Thus, FSIS 
disagrees that it needs to ensure that establishments conduct more 
pilot testing on online reprocessing before the Agency finalizes the 
proposed rule. There are extensive data available to show that the use 
online reprocessing systems is an effective method for removing 
digestive tract contents from accidentally contaminated carcasses and 
that the process meets sanitary standards.

J. Animal Welfare Considerations

    FSIS received thousands of comments from private citizens and 
comment letters from animal welfare advocacy organizations that 
expressed concerns about the potential impact that the NPIS may have on 
the welfare of the live birds at slaughter. These comments raised 
several issues related to the handling of live birds under the NPIS.
1. Welfare of Live Birds
    Comment: Several animal welfare organizations stated that FSIS did 
not adequately consider the impact that the NPIS will have on animal 
welfare. The comments expressed concern that the NPIS would negatively 
impact the welfare of birds. Numerous individuals and several animal 
welfare organizations expressed their view that the NPIS is 
inconsistent with FSIS's policy that ``considers humane methods of 
handling animals and humane slaughter operations a high priority,'' and 
it would undermine the Agency's food safety and humane slaughter 
policies.
    Response: FSIS regulations require that establishments slaughter 
poultry in accordance with good commercial practices in a manner that 
results in thorough bleeding of the poultry carcasses and that ensures 
that breathing has stopped before scalding so that the birds do not 
drown (9 CFR 381.65(b)). In September 2005, the Agency published a 
Federal Register notice to explain that poultry products are more 
likely to be adulterated if, among other circumstances, they are 
produced from birds that have not been treated humanely because such 
birds are more likely to be bruised or to die other than by slaughter 
(70 FR 56624). The PPIA (21 U.S.C. 453(g)(5)), as well as the 
regulations (9 CFR 381.90), provide that carcasses of poultry showing 
evidence of having died from causes other than slaughter are considered 
adulterated and condemned. The Agency did not propose changes to these 
regulations and this final rule maintains these requirements without 
change. Establishments operating under the NPIS will absolutely be 
required to comply with these requirements. FSIS does not have a basis 
to believe the NPIS will negatively impact bird welfare and does not 
expect the new system to do so. Nonetheless, FSIS does consider humane 
handling and good commercial practices to be a high priority and will 
continue to be diligent in enforcing these requirements.
2. Line Speed and Animal Welfare
    Comment: Approximately 1,000 individuals and several animal welfare 
organizations said that the proposed increase in maximum slaughter line 
speeds under the proposed rule would adversely impact humane handling 
of poultry. Many examples were suggested by individuals and animal 
welfare organizations of ways in which these adverse impacts could 
potentially occur.

[[Page 49610]]

These encompass concerns about potential workers frustrations over 
faster line speed and taking these frustrations out on the birds, 
potential increased injuries that may occur from shackling birds at 
faster line speeds, potential injuries from birds vigorously flapping 
their wings while in shackles, and the potential for ineffective 
stunning and throat cutting at faster line speeds.
    Response: As discussed above, under this final rule, the maximum 
line speed permitted under the NPIS will be 140 bpm for young chickens 
rather than 175 bpm, as was proposed. Thus, the maximum line speed for 
the NPIS will be no faster than the maximum line speed permitted under 
the existing inspection systems under SIS.
    As the Agency explained in the previous response, under the NPIS, 
establishments are now and will continue to be required to slaughter 
poultry in accordance with good commercial practices, in a manner that 
results in thorough bleeding of the poultry carcasses and ensures that 
breathing has stopped before scalding (9 CFR 381.65(b)). FSIS also 
considers poultry carcasses showing evidence of having died from causes 
other than slaughter to be adulterated and as such must be condemned 
(21 U.S.C. 453(g)(5) and 9 CFR 381.90). For example, poultry that are 
still breathing on entering the scalder die from drowning not from 
slaughter and are, therefore, considered adulterated and unfit for 
human food. Establishments operating under the NPIS will be subject to 
these requirements regardless of an establishment's specific line 
speed. If an establishment fails to meet these requirements, it will 
have to adjust its operations to ensure that is does meet these 
requirements. For example, some establishments may reduce line speeds, 
others may station additional employees in the receiving-to-pre-scald 
areas to ensure compliance.
    Further, FSIS believes that employing humane methods of handling 
and slaughtering that are consistent with good commercial practices 
increases the likelihood of producing unadulterated product. In 
addition, if an establishment chooses the NPIS, FSIS inspection 
resources will be allocated to more offline food safety-related 
inspection activities, including verification tasks to systematically 
observe the conditions in the receiving to pre-scald area. When 
verifying good commercial practices in this area, offline inspection 
personnel observe whether establishment employees are mistreating birds 
or handling them in a way that will cause death, injury, prevent 
thorough bleeding, or result in excessive bruising. Offline inspection 
personnel also verify that the birds are stunned before being bled and 
determine whether there is other evidence that birds died other than by 
slaughter. If offline inspection personnel observe that the 
establishment is not following good commercial practices, they will 
take appropriate enforcement action and require corrective and remedial 
measures.
3. Animal Welfare and the Reduction in Number of Online FSIS Inspectors
    Comment: Many individuals, several animal welfare organizations, 
and a consumer advocacy organization commented that a reduction in the 
number of online FSIS inspectors will harm animal welfare because FSIS 
inspectors will have less of an opportunity to observe and address 
inhumane handling. The comments expressed concern that current duties 
regarding handling and treatment of birds will not be adequately 
performed under the NPIS because there will be fewer FSIS inspectors. 
One consumer advocacy organization asserted that industry may also have 
less incentive to prevent injury to animals because of the Agency's new 
approach to OCP defects.
    Response: Under this final rule, the NPIS will become one of the 
poultry inspection systems. FSIS disagrees that decreasing the number 
of online FSIS inspectors under the NPIS will harm animal welfare or 
impair its ability to carry out its human handling work effectively. As 
with HIMP, VIs under the NPIS will conduct food safety related 
inspection activities, including verification tasks to systematically 
observe the conditions in the receiving to pre-scald area, and will 
continuously monitor and evaluate establishment process control. For 
example, FSIS offline VIs will be verifying that establishments are 
following good commercial practices and will be checking for 
mistreatment or improper handling of birds. If inspection personnel 
observe that the establishment is not following good commercial 
practices, they will take appropriate enforcement action. If an 
establishment's line speed is seen as a cause of failure to follow good 
commercial practices, or if food safety related or non-food safety 
related conditions impair the online CI's ability to conduct the 
inspection of each carcass, the IIC will take appropriate remedial 
action and will be authorized to require that the establishment slow 
the line speed.

K. Environmental Impact

    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that each USDA 
agency is required to comply with 7 CFR part 1b of the USDA 
regulations, which supplement the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) regulations (77 FR 4451). Under 7 CFR part 1b, actions of 
certain USDA agencies and agency units are categorically excluded from 
the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) unless the agency head determines that an action 
may have a significant environmental effect. FSIS is among the agencies 
categorically excluded from the preparation of an EA or EIS. In the 
preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that the Agency 
determined that the proposed rule was subject to the categorical 
exclusion from the preparation of an EA or EIS because the proposed 
rule will not have individual or cumulative effects on the human 
environment. FSIS received a few comments on the categorical exclusion.
    Comment: Comments from an animal welfare advocacy organization and 
a consumer advocacy organization asserted that FSIS did not adequately 
analyze the environmental impacts of the proposed rule and therefore, 
did not meet the burden to show that the proposed rule is appropriately 
subject to the NEPA categorical exclusion. According to the comments, 
the proposed increase in line speeds that would have been permitted 
under the NPIS would allow establishments to slaughter more birds, 
thereby increasing demand on water supplies, truck traffic and carbon 
emissions from the transportation for each facility, and consumption of 
electricity to run each facility. The comments also asserted that an 
increase in birds slaughtered will result in an increase in condemned 
and inedible carcasses and parts that will need to be disposed of.
    Response: As discussed above, under this final rule the maximum 
line speed permitted under the NPIS will be 140 bpm for young chickens 
rather than 175 bpm, as was proposed. Thus, the maximum line speed for 
the NPIS will be no faster than the maximum line speed permitted under 
the existing inspection systems under SIS. While the NPIS may give 
establishments the flexibility to slaughter and process birds more 
efficiently, consumer demand for poultry products will determine the 
number of birds slaughtered rather than line speeds. Thus, this final 
rule will not have a significant individual or cumulative effect on the 
human environment.

[[Page 49611]]

    Comment: Some comments said that the provision in the proposed rule 
that permits establishments to use online and offline antimicrobial 
systems to reprocess contaminated carcasses will increase the discharge 
of antimicrobial chemicals into the water supply. The comments stated 
that one such substance, trisodium phosphate (TSP), can cause high 
levels of phosphorus in water and cause algae blooms. The comment noted 
that in the proposed rule, FSIS stated that only 5 to 7 of the 144 
facilities with online reprocessing systems use TSP, and that the water 
is recycled and does not enter public water supplies. The comment said 
that the proposed rule did not account for whether there will be a 
foreseeable increase in facilities using online reprocessing systems 
that use TSP as a result of the proposed rule and what they will do 
with their TSP-laden water.
    A comment from a member of academia agreed with FSIS's conclusion 
that the proposed rule was appropriately subject to a categorical 
exclusion from the preparation of an EA or EIS. The comment noted that 
although TSP may affect the aquatic environment, establishments that 
use this substance for online reprocessing are required to meet all 
local, State, and Federal environmental requirements. The comment said 
that water from slaughter facilities is treated appropriately and 
should continue to be treated appropriate within waste water treatment 
facilities.
    Response: FSIS considered the potential environmental effects of 
the provision in this rule that will permit poultry slaughter 
establishments to use approved online reprocessing antimicrobial 
systems. As noted by the comment, TSP is used in a few online 
reprocessing antimicrobial systems. However, regardless of the 
substances that an establishment uses in its online reprocessing 
system, it is required to meet all local, State, and Federal 
environmental requirements. The waste water from all poultry 
establishments is handled routinely by existing water treatment systems 
or recycled as by-product without entering the establishment's water 
system, municipal water system, or ground water.

L. Economic Impact

1. General
    Comment: One consumer advocacy organization stated that under the 
NPIS, FSIS would have authorized establishments operating under the 
NPIS to increase their maximum line speeds to allow establishments to 
operate more efficiently. The comment stated that this would allow 
large corporations that own multiple establishments to close some and 
still produce the same volume of product. The comment said that 
establishment closures will result in worker layoffs and community 
disruption, especially in locations where the establishment is the 
largest employer.
    Response: As discussed above, under this final rule the maximum 
line speed permitted under the NPIS will be 140 bpm for young chickens 
rather than 175 bpm, as was proposed. Thus, the maximum line speed for 
the NPIS will be no faster than the maximum line speed permitted under 
the existing inspection systems under SIS.
    Regardless of line speed, establishments may choose to implement 
the NPIS by adjusting shifts, reducing overtime, increasing output, 
reducing the number of lines, or consolidating establishments.
    Comment: One trade association stated that the NPIS will create new 
jobs. According to the comment, even in the current economy, members of 
the trade association that participate in the HIMP pilot have hired 
additional in-plant personnel. The comment said that slaughter and 
processing establishments are only able to increase line speeds as 
staff levels permit, otherwise quality control could be adversely 
affected. The comment said that some establishments that have joined 
the HIMP pilot have expanded their facilities, hired new workers, and 
purchased additional equipment and technology, further fueling rural 
economies.
    Response: While it is difficult to predict, FSIS agrees that 
establishments adopting the NPIS will likely initially expand their 
labor resources by employing about 0.8 staff-years of online sorters 
and carcass-inspection helpers that substitute for every 1.0 staff-year 
of FSIS online inspection program personnel (refer to number 1 under 
Summary of Estimated Costs and Cost Savings of the Rule).
    Comment: A consumer advocacy organization questioned the incentive 
structures that would be in place with the NPIS. The comment questioned 
whether the NPIS would result in pathogen reduction and would lead to a 
reduction in health benefits. The comment questioned how the NPIS would 
limit the number of recalls.
    Response: It is within the establishment's economic interest to 
take whatever actions are necessary to produce products that are safe, 
wholesome, and free from excessive trim and dressing defects. FSIS is 
responsible for ensuring that the establishment's process control 
procedures for preventing contamination by enteric pathogens and fecal 
material and for controlling OCP defects are effective. The NPIS gives 
establishments the flexibility to more efficiently utilize their 
resources to design systems that ensure their process control. As a 
result, the NPIS is expected to improve food safety and the 
effectiveness of inspection systems. FSIS estimates that this rule 
could reduce the number of human illnesses attributed to young chicken 
and turkey products by an average of about 3,980 Salmonella illnesses 
and about 840 Campylobacter illnesses.
    The records that all establishments that slaughter poultry other 
than ratites would be required to keep under this rule, including the 
records of the establishment's testing results, will provide 
establishments and FSIS with ongoing information on the effectiveness 
of the establishment's process controls. This will allow FSIS and 
establishments to identify situations associated with an increase in 
microbial levels so that they can take the necessary corrective actions 
to prevent further potential contamination. The documentation that 
would result from this rule could also limit the scope of a product 
recall if the establishment maintains records sufficient to allow it to 
identify the point when a lack of process control could have resulted 
in product contamination.
2. Environmental Justice
    Comment: Several comments from human and worker rights advocacy 
organizations and a public health professional trade association said 
that the Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis (PRIA) for the proposed 
rule failed to consider costs to workers' health and safety. The 
comments noted that FSIS estimated that the benefits of the proposed 
rule would amount to at least $258.9 million, but that the Agency did 
not present any data or estimates of the cost of injury, illness and 
disability of the proposed increased in maximum line speed that would 
have been permitted on the affected poultry plant workers. One comment 
stated that PRIA must also consider costs associated with increased 
worker's compensation, increased social service costs for State and 
local government, and reduced tax and Social Security payments.
    Response: Under this final rule the maximum line speed permitted 
under the NPIS will be 140 bpm for young chickens rather than 175 bpm, 
as was proposed. Thus, the maximum line speed for the NPIS will be no 
faster than the maximum line speed permitted under the existing 
inspection systems

[[Page 49612]]

under SIS. The FRIA for this final rule has been updated to reflect 
this change from the proposal.
    The effect of line speed on establishment employee safety is an 
important issue. As discussed above, the 2005 GAO Report, which linked 
production line speed to occupational injury and illness rates in the 
slaughter industry, called for independent research to better 
understand this relationship. As discussed earlier in this document, to 
obtain at least preliminary data on the matter, FSIS has asked NIOSH to 
evaluate the effects of increased line speeds on worker safety by 
collecting data from establishments that had been granted waivers from 
line speed restrictions under the SIP. NIOSH has completed such a study 
in one non-HIMP establishment. FSIS considers the NIOSH study to be an 
important first step in better assessing the impact of line speeds on 
the health and safety of workers in poultry slaughter and processing 
establishments.
3. Small Business Considerations
    Comment: Some consumer advocacy organizations stated that the NPIS 
will lead to further consolidation in the poultry industry and that 
large producers will benefit at the expense of smaller processors. The 
comments said that the proposed increase in line speeds that would have 
been authorized under the proposed rule would cause small processors 
that typically do not run at line speeds of up to 175 birds to go out 
of business because the market will be flooded with poultry products 
from the larger processors. One trade association and a member of 
academia believed that the proposed rule adequately addressed 
considerations for small and very small establishments. According to 
the comments, the option to remain under Traditional Inspection will 
benefit establishments that do not have the resources to absorb the 
costs associated with facility and personnel changes. One comment 
stated that because establishments will have an opportunity to opt-in 
or opt-out of the NPIS, smaller businesses that have ``niche'' markets 
will not be adversely affected. The comments said that poultry sold in 
smaller markets has the appeal of being locally harvested and 
slaughtered under less commercial conditions. According to the comment, 
smaller establishments that have ``niche'' markets for their poultry 
product may see an increase in consumer purchase as a result of larger 
slaughter facilities choosing the new system.
    Response: Under this final rule, establishments that do not choose 
to operate under the NPIS may continue to operate under their current 
inspection system, i.e., SIS, NELS, NTIS, or Traditional Inspection. 
FSIS expects little to no impact on small producers. Very small 
establishments that operate under Traditional Inspection generally 
slaughter birds that are sold in local, niche markets, where consumers 
have shown a willingness to pay more for a food product that is of 
local origin.\19\ An ability to charge a higher price based on product 
differentiation enables the very small establishments to continue to 
compete in the market. The same pricing power based on product 
differentiation holds for establishments that slaughter birds other 
than young chickens and turkeys. Moreover, FSIS has revised the rule to 
reduce the sampling requirements for very low volume and very small 
establishments, which further reduces their cost to operate under the 
Traditional Inspection System, as modified by this final rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ See Martinez, Steve et al., Local Food Systems: Concepts, 
Impacts, and Issues, ERR 97, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 
Economic Research Service, May 2010 for a discussion of consumers' 
willingness to pay a price premium (p. 29) for such characteristics 
as traceability (p. 26, p. 70) offered by local producers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. Implementation Costs
    Comment: One trade association stated that the proposed rule did 
not address the significant costs of implementation, such as developing 
training materials and training employees, developing new recordkeeping 
based on the new system, and retraining or hiring new personnel to 
manage those recordkeeping systems. This trade association also noted 
that implementation of the NPIS will require significant capital 
investments. This trade association argued that the potential costs of 
implementation are exacerbated because it is unclear how the Agency 
plans to implement the NPIS and establishments cannot yet begin to make 
financial plans.
    Response: FSIS carefully considered the costs associated with the 
final rule and included establishment costs associated with 
implementing the NPIS and complying with the mandatory recordkeeping 
and testing requirements of the rule in its FRIA. Annualized costs 
associated with the hiring of additional labor of sorters, both one-
time and ongoing training as well as capital expenditures for the NPIS 
total $16.0 million (Table 7a). Annualized costs and cost savings 
associated with both additional microbial testing, the elimination of 
E. coli testing, recordkeeping and updating HACCP plans total $9.1 
million (Table 7b).
    Comment: One trade association questioned the Agency's estimated 
industry savings in the PRIA. This trade association believed that some 
of the assumptions that the estimate are based on are unrealistic, such 
as, how many establishments will choose to or are capable of operating 
at higher line speeds. Additionally, this trade association stated that 
FSIS failed to take into account overall consumer demand when 
estimating industry-wide output. However, this trade association 
asserted that the benefits to food safety and the overall efficiencies 
to be gained are worth the cost and investment.
    Response: Under this final rule the maximum line speed permitted 
under the NPIS will be 140 bpm for young chickens rather than 175 bpm, 
as was proposed. Thus, the maximum line speed for the NPIS will be no 
faster than the maximum line speed permitted under the existing 
inspection systems under SIS. The FRIA for this final rule has been 
updated to reflect this change from the proposal. In the proposed rule, 
FSIS took into account overall consumer demand by using demand 
elasticity to predict the increase in young chicken and turkey products 
produced as a result of an increase in line speed. However, because the 
maximum line speed under the NPIS will now be no faster than the 
maximum line speed authorized under the existing inspection systems, 
the impact of consumer demand on consumer and producer benefits has 
been removed.

IV. Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess costs 
and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is 
necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits 
(including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety 
effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 
emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of 
reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. 
This final rule has been designated a ``significant'' regulatory 
action, under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866. Accordingly, the 
rule has been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, under 
Executive Order 12866.

Introduction

    FSIS updated the PRIA to take into account recently published data 
and to reflect changes in the final rule in response to public 
comments. The changes to the costs and benefits

[[Page 49613]]

sections incorporate the following factors:
     Maximum line speeds permitted under the NPIS will be 140 
bpm for young chickens.
     Very small HACCP size establishments are required to only 
test at one location instead of two and the sampling frequency for very 
low volume establishments remains unchanged from the existing 
regulation.
     Additional Labor Cost Due to Attestation of Work-Related 
Conditions is added to total cost.
     Changes to the rule's implementation plan, which are 
reflected in the Expected FSIS budgetary effects, establishment costs, 
and public health benefits.
     Changes to the costs of illness estimate, including 
changes to the average cost per illness and to the averted number of 
illnesses estimated in FSIS's risk assessment as a result of the latest 
peer review.
     Establishments are also now required to have a height-
adjustable CI stand (the proposed rule did not have the height-
adjustable requirement). FSIS has not included the price difference 
between height-adjustable and non height-adjustable inspection stands 
in the Final Regulatory Impact Analysis (FRIA) since the difference in 
cost is expected to be minimal.

Need for the Rule

    The current systems of poultry inspection are rooted in principles 
of command and control regulation, where broad, rigid standards are 
applied across finished products and establishments. As food processing 
and food safety technology becomes more diverse, FSIS has worked to 
reform its regulations with a focus on HACCP-based process control, 
enabling establishments to have more flexibility in tailoring their 
food safety plans to their products and processes. The new system of 
poultry slaughter will help to further this effort. Based on our 
experience with the HIMP program, FSIS expects the new inspection 
system to improve food safety and the effectiveness of inspection 
systems, remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation, and 
make better use of the Agency's resources.
    Furthermore, FSIS has determined that contamination of poultry 
carcasses and parts by fecal material and enteric pathogens (e.g., 
Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp.) are hazards reasonably likely 
to occur in poultry slaughter establishments unless addressed in a 
sanitation SOP or other prerequisite program.

Summary of the Rule's Provisions

    A. Elements of the new system for the slaughter of young chickens 
and turkeys:
    (1) Requirements by establishment personnel to conduct carcass 
sorting activities before FSIS inspection program personnel (IPP) 
conduct online carcass inspection so that only carcasses that the 
establishment deems likely to pass inspection are presented to the FSIS 
carcass IPP. FSIS expects this action to impact 194 establishments (70 
small establishments plus 149 large establishments minus 25 HIMP 
establishments);
    (2) A limit of one FSIS online carcass inspector per evisceration 
line. FSIS expects this action to impact 194 establishments;
    (3) Removal of the existing Finished Product Standards (FPS) and 
subsequent replacement with a requirement to maintain records that 
document that the finished products meet the definition of ready-to-
cook poultry. Establishments will have the flexibility to design and 
implement measures for producing ready-to-cook poultry that are best 
suited to their operations. In addition to inspecting for food safety 
defects, the FSIS online carcass inspector will also conduct a carcass 
inspection for defects that are less important to food safety. The 
presence of persistent, unattended defects would indicate that the 
plant is not producing ready-to-cook poultry. FSIS expects this action 
to may impact up to 219 establishments;
    (4) Requirement that facilities in the establishment include:
    (a) An online carcass inspection station for each evisceration 
line; (b) one or more offline carcass inspection stations for each 
evisceration line; (c) an online area for the online inspection of 
carcasses for avian leukosis; and (d) an underline trough for each 
evisceration line in order to prevent the contamination of online 
carcasses by removed poultry waste or inedible products of the 
evisceration process. FSIS expects that this action would affect, at a 
maximum, about 219 establishments that may choose to adopt this new 
inspection system out of 270 official federally inspected 
establishments that slaughter young chickens and turkeys (refer to 
Table 4 for further explanation of the number of establishments 
affected). This 219 total includes HIMP establishments, though they 
will have already installed this equipment, meaning that 194 
establishments are affected; and
    (5) a requirement that each establishment that participates in the 
New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) shall submit on an annual basis an 
attestation to the management member of the local FSIS circuit safety 
committee stating that it maintains a program to monitor and document 
any work-related conditions of establishment workers, and that the 
program includes the elements listed in the preamble.
    B. Elements that would affect all 289 poultry, non-ratite slaughter 
establishments:
    (1) Development, implementation, and maintenance of written 
procedures to prevent contamination of carcasses and parts by fecal 
material and enteric pathogens (e.g., Salmonella and Campylobacter) as 
part of an establishment's HACCP plans, sanitation SOPs, or other 
prerequisite programs. FSIS is requiring that, at a minimum, these 
written procedures include sampling and analysis for microbial 
organisms at the pre-chill and post-chill points in the process to 
verify process control (except for very small HACCP size establishments 
and very low volume establishments, which are required to sample only 
at post-chill);
    (2) Development, implementation, and maintenance of written 
procedures to ensure that carcasses and parts with visible fecal 
contamination do not enter the chiller as part of an establishment's 
HACCP plans, sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs;
    (3) Removal of the current requirement to test for generic E. coli 
and the codified Salmonella pathogen reduction performance standards 
for poultry;
    (4) Removal of the chilling requirements for ready-to-cook (RTC) 
poultry, which now provide specific time and temperature parameters; 
and
    (5) Requirements regarding the use of approved online reprocessing 
antimicrobial systems or offline reprocessing approved antimicrobial 
agents, if these procedures for reprocessing are incorporated into 
their HACCP plans, sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs.

Baseline

    Table 2 compares the components or requirements of the actions of 
the final rule to the current regulatory regime for all federally 
inspected establishments that slaughtered all poultry other than 
ratites. From the FSIS Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS), we 
identified 289 establishments in 2010 slaughtering poultry (excluding 
ratites). Actions include requirements for young chicken and turkey 
establishments and requirements for all poultry slaughter 
establishments

[[Page 49614]]

excluding ratites. Table 2 includes information for SIS and NELS 
inspection systems and SIS Automated Evisceration Equipment Systems, 
referred to as MAESTRO, which is an acronym for ``Meyn's Automatic 
Evisceration System Total Removal of Organs'', and Nu-Tech Nuova. These 
automated poultry evisceration systems were introduced in the late 
1990s. For young chicken establishments, up to four FSIS inspectors are 
stationed on the same side of a processing line that runs at a maximum 
of 140 birds per minute (bpm) or 35 bpm per inspector--the same per-
inspector line speed as under SIS. The evisceration equipment used in 
SIS or NELS must be supported by establishment employees who manually 
complete carcass and viscera presentation. In contrast, the automated 
evisceration systems do not require that support.

                                Table 2--Comparison of Key Components of the Baseline Regulatory Environment and the Rule
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Very small and small HACCP size establishments                    Small and large non-traditional
 Key features or provisions of the                     traditional                  --------------------------------------------------------------------
                rule                ------------------------------------------------  Current  inspection
                                            Baseline                  Rule                  systems                  HIMP                   NPIS
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Number of Establishments...........  70....................  ......................  194..................  25.                    .....................
Carcass Sorting Activities.........  FSIS..................  FSIS..................  FSIS.................  Establishment........  Establishment.
Online Inspector per Line..........  1-4...................  1-4...................  2-4..................  1....................  1.
Online Inspector Limit.............  No....................  No....................  No...................  Yes..................  Yes.
Addition of Online Establishment     No....................  No....................  No...................  Yes..................  Yes.
 Workers because of Relocation of
 Online IPP.
Line Speed Maximum Birds per minute  25-46.................  25-46.................  70-140...............  175..................  140.
 for Young Chickens.
Line Speed Maximum Birds per minute  <=66..................  <=66..................  N/A \1\..............  N/A..................  SIP Waiver
 for Mature Chickens.                                                                                                               determined.
Line Speed Maximum Birds per minute  16-25.................  16-25.................  21-51................  55...................  55.
 for Turkeys.
Line Speed Maximum Birds per minute  <=66..................  <=66..................  N/A..................  N/A..................  SIP Waiver
 for Other Poultry.                                                                                                                 determined.
Records to document that products    No....................  No....................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 meet the definition of RTC poultry.
New Facilities Requirements........  No....................  No....................  No...................  Yes..................  Yes.
New carcass inspection station for   No....................  No....................  No...................  Yes..................  Yes.
 each evisceration line.
New carcass inspection area online   No....................  No....................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 for avian leukosis for each
 evisceration line.
Underline Trough for each            No....................  No....................  No...................  Yes..................  Yes.
 evisceration line.
HACCP System--written to prevent     No....................  No....................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 Sep/Tox carcasses from entering
 chiller.
HACCP System--written to prevent     No....................  Yes...................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 contamination by enteric pathogens
 and fecal material & testing.
HACCP System--written to prevent     No....................  Yes...................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 carcasses contaminated with fecal
 material from entering the chill
 tank.
Replace Requirement to Test for      No....................  Yes...................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 Generic E. coli and Salmonella
 performance standards with 2-point
 testing.\2\
End Waivers for: Chilling            No....................  Yes...................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 Requirements for RTC Time and Temp
 Eliminated.
End Waivers for: Use Online          No....................  Yes...................  No...................  No...................  Yes.
 Reprocessing (OLR) Antimicrobial
 Systems or Offline Antimicrobial
 Agents.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ N/A--does not apply.
 \2\ Very small HACCP size establishments and very low volume establishments are required to test in one location.

    Under the final rule, any of the young chicken and turkey 
establishments (assumed to be limited to the 219 large and small non-
Traditional establishments) that adopt the new inspection system (some 
while operating under updated SIP waivers), will have one online 
inspector per line. Currently, there are two to four online inspectors 
per line under the current non-traditional systems (SIS, NELS, and 
NTIS); however, there is one online inspector per line under HIMP. Even 
though FSIS, in the analysis that follows, only quantifies costs, 
rather than benefits, of switching to NPIS, FSIS predicts that some 
small and large non-traditional establishments alike will choose to 
adopt the NPIS because it will give them greater control over their 
production process and more flexibility to design, develop, and 
implement new technologies. Comments received from industry indicate 
that the benefits to food safety and the overall efficiencies to be 
gained by the NPIS would be worth the cost and investment to

[[Page 49615]]

industry. These comments were submitted in response to the proposed 
rule that would have allowed a maximum line speed of 175 bpm under 
NPIS. Thus, the change in policy between the proposed and final rule 
may change the appropriate interpretation of some of these comments. 
However, one industry trade association commented that the proposed 
rule's Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis contained unrealistic 
assumptions of how many establishments would have chosen to, or would 
have been capable of, operating at the faster line speeds that would 
have been permitted under the proposed NPIS. Nevertheless, regardless 
of line speed, this trade association believed that the benefits to 
food safety and the overall efficiencies to be gained by the NPIS would 
be worth the cost and investment to industry as noted throughout this 
document. Establishments will have the flexibility to design and 
implement measures for producing ready-to-cook poultry tailored to 
their operations. The NPIS would also give establishments the ability 
to investigate and develop new and more efficient technologies.
    The Agency's experience under HIMP demonstrates that young chicken 
establishments have incentives to participate and remain in the HIMP 
pilot for reasons other than the ability to operate faster line speeds. 
Experience from the HIMP pilot shows that HIMP establishments operate 
with an average line speed of 131 bpm, and that although they are 
authorized to do so, most of the young chicken HIMP establishments do 
not operate line speeds at 175 bpm. Thus, the faster line speeds 
authorized under HIMP do not appear to be the primary incentive for 
establishments to participate in the pilot because the average line 
speed of establishments operating under the HIMP inspection is slower 
than the 140 bpm maximum line speed authorized under the existing 
inspection systems.
    The Agency's experience under HIMP also shows that once 
establishments are selected to participate in the HIMP pilot, they 
choose to remain under the HIMP inspection system. In 2002, after FSIS 
had selected 20 young chicken establishments to participate in the HIMP 
pilot, the Agency informed the industry that it would limit the pilot 
to 20 establishments. At that time, over 40 establishments were placed 
on a waiting list to participate in the HIMP pilot. Since then, two 
establishments left the pilot because they closed. These establishments 
were replaced by establishments on the waiting list, and more than 40 
establishments remain on the list. Thus, the Agency's experience under 
HIMP shows that young chicken establishments continue to be interested 
in participating in the HIMP pilot, and those that are selected for the 
pilot choose to remain under the HIMP inspection system even though 
many are not operating at the maximum line speeds authorized under 
HIMP.
    Table 3 shows the baseline characterization of the U.S. poultry 
market for birds other than ratites in 2010. Domestic federally 
inspected establishments slaughtered and dressed about 8.8 billion 
birds other than ratites in 2010, including about 8.4 billion young 
chickens; about 140 million other chickens (e.g., fowl and capon); 
about 252 million turkeys; and about 27 million other poultry (e.g., 
ducks, geese, quail, pheasants, and squab). Establishments slaughtered 
about 8.64 billion young chickens and turkeys.

                          Table 3--Baseline Characterization of the U.S. Poultry Market
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Young chickens  Other chickens      Turkey       Other poultry
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Market price ($/bird) \1\.......................           $3.38           $1.34          $22.74           $9.02
Market quantity \2\ (thousand birds/year):
    Domestic production.........................     8,386,671.6       139,499.2      251,787. 8        26,781.1
    Exports.....................................     1,314,710.8        14,675.8        18,428.9           903.4
    Imports.....................................         9,314.1               0           229.8           243.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Market price is calculated by multiplying the wholesale price per pound by the average dressed weight.
\2\ Market quantities in thousands of birds (dressed carcasses), or animal (dressed carcass) equivalence, other
  than ratites. Source: Muth, M.K., Beach, R.H., Viator, C.L., Karns, S.A., & Taylor, J.L. (2006). Poultry
  Slaughter and Processing Sector Facility-Level Model. Prepared for U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety
  and Inspection Service. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International.

    A summary of the types of young chicken and turkey operations and 
the sizes of these official establishments is in Table 4 (FSIS ADRS 
2010). Table 4 summarizes the 270 federally inspected establishments 
that slaughtered young chickens (231 establishments) and turkeys (39 
establishments) along with the 19 that slaughtered other chicken (such 
as fowl and capon) (6 establishments) and only other poultry (such as 
squabs, pheasants, quail, ducks or geese) (13 establishments) in 2010.

[[Page 49616]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21AU14.000

    FSIS ADRS 2010 records indicated that there were 663 line-shifts in 
270 establishments that slaughter young chickens and turkeys, as shown 
in Table 5.\20\ In these establishments, one shift is defined as about 
8 hours per day and two shifts as about 16 hours per day. Approximately 
55 percent of the 270 establishments operated two slaughter shifts per 
day in 2010. For this analysis, the 663 line-shifts of production 
results from multiplying the number of lines by the number of shifts. 
Table 5 shows the details of the FSIS ADRS 2010 information on the 270 
young chicken and turkey establishments, classified by current 
inspection system. FSIS maintains this type of information because 
staffing patterns in current inspection systems are determined based on 
the number and type of slaughter lines. These 663 lines operate daily 
in the 270 young chicken and turkey establishments with one or two 8-
hour-shift(s), on about 5 or 6 days of the week.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ Included in this number are the very small establishments 
that annually slaughter a relatively small number of young chickens 
and turkeys by methods that do not use a high-speed line.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Table 5 also summarizes the maximum potential transition over five 
years, assuming available resources and institutional readiness, of the 
young chicken and turkey industry to the new inspection system. This 
table shows the distribution of the 270 establishments that slaughtered 
young chickens and turkeys in 2010.
    Of the 187 young chicken establishments (not under the Traditional 
Inspection System) with 542 lines, there were 117 establishments under 
SIS inspection, 50 under NELS inspection, and 20 under the HIMP 
inspection. Of the 32 turkey establishments (not under the Traditional 
Inspection System) with 56 lines, there were 27 establishments under 
NTIS inspection, and 5 under the HIMP inspection. Altogether, this 
suggests a maximum of 219 of the 270 young chicken and turkey 
establishments, or 81 percent, which have about 598 lines, have the 
opportunity to convert to NPIS.

[[Page 49617]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21AU14.001

    Table 6 shows that of the 187 young chicken establishments (not 
under the Traditional Inspection System) with 542 lines, 127 were HACCP 
large establishments and 60 were HACCP small establishments. Of the 32 
turkey establishments (not under the Traditional Inspection System) 
with 56 lines, 22 were HACCP large establishments and 10 were HACCP 
small establishments.

[[Page 49618]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR21AU14.002

Estimated Number of Establishments Predicted To Opt for the Modified 
Traditional Inspection System

    FSIS estimates that about 70 federally inspected establishments 
will switch from their current Traditional Inspection System to the 
modified Traditional Inspection System for the slaughter of poultry, 
other than ratites. The 70 establishments consist of 51 very small 
HACCP size establishments, or about 19 percent of the 270 official 
federally inspected establishments that slaughter young chickens and 
turkeys, and 19 establishments that slaughter poultry but not young 
chicken or turkey (or ratites). The very small HACCP size young chicken 
and turkey establishments, in general, do not have sufficient output 
volume over which to spread the initial set-up costs of any of the more 
automated systems or the training and maintenance costs resulting from 
this system.
    These 70 establishments represent about 24 percent of the 289 
official federally inspected establishments that slaughtered one or 
more classes of poultry other than ratites,\21\ under all poultry 
inspection systems in 2010. Based on FSIS's ADRS records, these 70 
establishments slaughtered about 1 percent of all poultry (other than 
ratites) of the domestic poultry industry in 2010. Furthermore, the 
approximately 219 official federally inspected establishments 
slaughtered about 99.9 percent of the young chickens and turkeys of the 
domestic poultry industry in 2010.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ Based on FSIS's Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS) 
of 2010, 289 establishments slaughtered all classes of poultry, 
other than ratites, under all poultry inspection systems in 2010. Of 
the 289 establishments, about 270 establishments slaughtered young 
chicken and young turkey in 2010.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 49619]]

Summary of Estimated Costs and Cost Savings of the Rule

    In the following sub-sections, FSIS presents the costs and cost 
savings that would be generated over a range of assumptions with 
respect to how much of the industry will choose to adopt NPIS within 
five years. These estimates are scaled from an illustrative calculation 
that assumes that all 219 small and large non-Traditional 
establishments adopt NPIS, which, while used to calculate potential 
maximum effect, is not necessarily FSIS's assumption of the most likely 
outcome. Later portions of the regulatory impact analysis contain 
discussion of the uncertainty surrounding the net benefits associated 
with how much of the industry will choose to adopt NPIS.

Items 1-7 are Costs and Cost Savings Associated With the New Poultry 
Inspection System

1. Addition of Online Establishment Workers Because of the Relocation 
of Online Inspection Program Personnel and Online Sorters--Annual Cost 
Associated With the New Poultry Inspection System
    FSIS estimates that young chicken and turkey establishments that 
transition to NPIS will initially expand their labor resources by 
employing about an average of 0.8 staff-years of online sorters and 
carcass-inspection helpers that substitute for every 1.0 staff-year of 
FSIS online inspection program personnel. For example, in one shift, an 
establishment that had ten FSIS online inspection program personnel 
would add eight online sorters and carcass-inspection helpers in 
response to the rule. This substitution rate is based on information 
provided by 12 young chicken establishments in 2001 who participated in 
the HIMP pilot program.\22\ If all of the 219 establishments eventually 
slaughtered young chickens and turkeys under the NPIS, this would 
translate to between 663 and 770 FSIS online inspection program 
personnel shifted from online inspection to verification inspection 
activities and online inspection of carcasses (carcass inspection, 
after the final wash and before the chiller). However, as noted above, 
there is not a way to predict how many of the establishments will 
transition to NPIS, or over what time frame FSIS would have the 
resources to accommodate requests after the initial 6 month period. As 
such, table 8b suggests that the range of personnel under assumptions 
that span 0 and 100 percent range from 0 to 770 online inspectors. FSIS 
estimates that the 770 shifted FSIS online inspection program personnel 
is the upper bound if indeed all the 219 establishments estimated 
earlier opt to transition to NPIS during the first five years.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \22\ Most of the cost estimates in this section are also based 
on the data collected from these 12 establishments.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Using the expected substitution rate of 0.8 (8 for 10), under the 
100 percent adoption assumption for analytic purposes, the estimated 
219 establishments would initially need about 616 (770 x 0.8) 
additional trained personnel to do the online sorting of young chickens 
and turkeys, and helping carcass inspection program personnel for all 
shifts. This implies that the range of reassignments by FSIS would be 
between 0 and about 770 inspection program personnel to other 
inspection activities within the establishments (e.g. carcass 
inspection, verification inspection, and relief coverage). The upper 
bound of this range, or 770 inspection program personnel, however, may 
be an over-estimate, because of attrition. The Bureau of Labor 
Statistics (BLS) indicated that the expected standard rate for 
establishment labor is about $13.96 per hour,\23\ and including 
benefits and related costs, the wage cost is taken for this analysis to 
be about $27,900 per staff-year (for about 2,000 hours \24\ per staff-
year). Therefore, the average cost if 219 establishments were to adopt 
NPIS within five years, would be for the initial additional 616 staff-
years of online sorter labor is about $17.2 million annually (616 x 
$27,900).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \23\ According to the 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics employment 
cost index, hourly wages for slaughtering and meatpacking workers is 
$11.63. Estimates of benefits as a percent of total wages range from 
20 to 39 percent according to the American Meat Institute. Since the 
poultry industry is at the low end of the wage scale, we are 
estimating benefits to be 20 percent of total wages.
    \24\ This is a simplifying assumption.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Training Online Sorters, Under the New Inspection System--One-time 
Cost Associated With the New Poultry Inspection System
    Initial training costs are expected, based on information provided 
by establishments participating in the HIMP pilot program, to be about 
$200 to $600 per employee (sorter), or an average cost of about $400 
per employee. Additional training costs accrue for the extra 
establishment employees (sorters) needed to cover for task rotation 
patterns and scheduled and unscheduled leave of trained establishment 
employees. FSIS projects, based on information provided by 
establishments participating in the HIMP pilot program, that rotation 
schedules would be about three times per shift. FSIS did not report 
costs in the official HIMP Report. FSIS, however, obtained information 
on establishment costs and practices from site visits to the HIMP 
project establishments and non-HIMP establishments that slaughter 
poultry. The HIMP establishments (20 young chickens and 5 turkeys, as 
shown in Table 5) reported a range of costs for their implementation of 
the FSIS's requirements of the HIMP inspection system. Based on this 
information, FSIS made assumptions on costs and practices of the 
poultry establishments that would be affected by this rule.
    FSIS assumes that the, using the maximum potential upper bound of 
establishments, 219 establishments will need about 3.5 to 4 times the 
replacement staff-years, or about 2,310 (3.75 x 616) establishment 
employees who are trained to perform online sorting and CI helper 
activities. Therefore, initially, an average of about 2,310 
establishment employees would need to be trained at a one-time average 
cost of about $400 each, or a total for estimated 219 establishments, 
of about $0.92 million (2,310 x $400).
3. Training, Annually--for Replacement Sorters Due to Labor Turnover--
Annual Cost Associated With the New Poultry Inspection System
    Annual training costs are estimated based on information provided 
by establishments participating in the HIMP pilot program, in order to 
account for the expected labor turnover rates in young chicken and 
turkey establishments and the need to train and educate replacement 
establishment personnel for sorting young chickens and turkeys.
    FSIS projects that, if the annual turnover rate of trained 
establishment sorters is, on average, 40 percent, establishments will 
need to train about 924 (0.4 x 2,310) new establishment sorters 
annually.\25\ FSIS projects that the initial training costs are 
expected to be about $200 to $600, or an average of about $400 per 
employee (sorter). Using the $400 per employee values, additional 
training costs will average about $0.37 million (924 x $400), annually.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \25\ BLS reported that the overall private industry turnover 
rate was approximately 41 percent in 2011. FSIS is rounding to 40 
percent. U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
(2011). Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Washington, DC: U.S. 
Department of Labor.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 49620]]

4. Continuing Education & Training, Annually--for Existing Sorter 
Labor--Annual Cost Associated With the New Poultry Inspection System
    After the initial training, the establishments will have additional 
costs to provide ongoing annual education and training (formalized). 
This education and training is for the knowledgeable establishment 
staff (sorters) of an average of about 2,310 persons who need to 
maintain a sufficiently high correlation of agreement with FSIS on 
regulatory compliance for dressing performance standards. The annual 
training cost, based on information provided by establishments 
participating in the HIMP pilot program, was about $150 to $200 per 
sorter, or an average of $175 per sorter. Using this average value, the 
total average cost would be about $0.40 million (2,310 x $175), 
annually.
5. Additions to Facilities: Carcass Inspection Stations, Avian Leukosis 
Inspection Area, and Underline Troughs One Time Costs Associated With 
the New Poultry Inspection System
    Under the rule, all of the poultry establishments participating in 
the NPIS will need to add capital investments to install a carcass 
inspection height-adjustable station.
    Establishments operating under SIS, NELS, and NTIS are currently 
required to have an underline trough but they will need an additional 
new trough at the end of the evisceration line. The 25 establishments 
(20 young chicken and 5 turkey) that operate under HIMP (Table 5) will 
not need new trough installations under the new rule. FSIS assumes 
installations will require a stainless steel underline trough (or 
equivalent) that will cost about $8,000 to $12,000, or an average of 
about $10,000, for most establishments, based on information provided 
by commercial construction guidelines of costs for purchasing (or 
constructing) and installing such systems. FSIS estimates that as many 
as 194 establishments (Table 5, based on a projection that up to 219 
establishments may adopt the NPIS, minus the 25 HIMP establishments) 
will need inspection stations that will cost about $5,000 to $6,000, or 
an average of about $5,500, for most establishments, based on 
information provided by establishments participating in the HIMP pilot 
program.
    For the carcass inspection station, this cost is for the 
construction of a stainless steel height-adjustable stand that has 
stairs and a surrounding guardrail. This carcass inspection stand must 
have a floor area large enough to allow sufficient space to accommodate 
the carcass inspection program person and an establishment employee, 
that is, a helper for removal of defective or rejected birds from the 
line. This inspection station would contain plumbing for hot and cold 
water, and a stainless steel hand-washing basin.
    Furthermore, electrical service must be installed for powering 
bright lights (200 foot-candles of illumination at the level of the 
bird) required for inspection, and control switches must be installed 
to allow the starting and stopping of the eviscerating line. The 
verification inspection station typically is already in place in most 
young chicken and turkey, and other poultry slaughter establishments. 
Therefore, in most cases, there would be no additional cost for a 
verification inspection station near the end of the eviscerating line. 
The verification inspection station is typically a stainless steel 
table illuminated with bright lights (200 foot-candles).
    These capital investments for the carcass inspection stations are 
necessary for each of the about 541 eviscerating lines now installed in 
the 194 non-HIMP establishments (Table 5) that may implement the NPIS. 
Therefore, the calculated cost for adding carcass and verification 
inspection stations for the 194 establishments is about $8.39 million 
(541 x $15,500).
6. Carcass Dressing for Meeting the Definition of Ready-to-Cook (RTC) 
Poultry and the Removal of the Finished Product Standards (FPS) 
Associated With the New Poultry Inspection System
    FSIS is removing the existing Finished Product Standards (FPS) and 
replacing them with a requirement that establishments maintain 
documentation to demonstrate that the products resulting from their 
slaughter operations meet the definition of ready-to-cook poultry. 
Establishments will have the flexibility to design and implement 
measures for producing ready-to-cook poultry that are best suited to 
their operations and may have minimal savings. These savings are not 
included in the benefits estimate.
    FSIS online carcass inspectors will inspect each carcass for 
defects that are important for food safety, such as septicemia and 
toxemia, as well as for defects that are less important to food safety 
but that may render carcasses or parts unwholesome or adulterated, such 
as persistent, unattended removable animal diseases and trim and 
dressing defects.
7. Additional Annual Labor Cost Due to Attestation of Work-Related 
Conditions
    Each establishment operating under the NPIS will need to submit on 
an annual basis an attestation to the management member of the local 
FSIS circuit safety committee stating that it maintains a program to 
monitor and document any work-related conditions of establishment 
workers. The cost of this attestation is estimated to take 2 minutes at 
a wage rate of $13.96 per hour for a total of $102 annually.
Total Costs and Cost Savings Associated With the New Poultry Inspection 
System
    FSIS assumes that the projected adoption of NPIS will take place 
over a five year time period.\26\ FSIS expects that HACCP size large 
establishments will be the first to convert to the new inspection 
system because they have greater resources available to them to make 
the necessary changes. For the purposes of estimating costs, FSIS 
assumed that 68% of all establishments that convert to NPIS will have 
implemented NPIS by the third year, with approximately 1/3 of these 
establishments converting each of the first three years. For the small 
establishments that implement NPIS, FSIS assumed that half would 
convert in year four, and half would convert in year five. If all large 
and small establishments adopt NPIS, this pattern would result in the 
complete conversion of establishments to the new inspection system 
within the five year period used for this analysis. FSIS is uncertain 
about how many and how fast establishments might opt into NPIS, as 
such, FSIS presents the data in table 8b to reflect that uncertainty.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \26\ Please refer to the ``Baseline'' section for further 
explanation on the projected adoption rate of NPIS.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As such, the costs to industry associated with making the necessary 
changes to implement NPIS will fluctuate over the initial five years. 
FSIS used establishment information including HACCP size, line-shift 
data (see Table 5), and approximate volume contributions \27\ to 
estimate how one-time industry costs will be spread across

[[Page 49621]]

the first five years. FSIS also used this information to approximate 
the recurring costs to industry over time. These estimated costs are 
summarized in Table 7a. Annualized costs were calculated using a 
discount rate of 7 percent over a ten-year period.\28\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \27\ The USDA, GIPSA 2012 Packers and Stockyards Annual Report 
states that the four largest broiler slaughterers posted a 52 
percent market share in 2011. The share of the four largest turkey 
slaughterers was 55 percent in 2011. The U.S. Census Bureau 2007 
Economic Census of the United States reports that the 50 largest 
Poultry Processing Companies (2007 NAICS 311615) post a 91.5% share 
of the total value of shipments. For the purposes of this analysis, 
FSIS assumed that large establishments accounted for 90% of the 
production volume and small establishments accounted for the 
remaining 9.9%. According to our analysis, very small establishments 
account for the remaining 0.1%.
    \28\ FSIS assumes first-year costs are incurred at the end of 
the year.

 Table 7a--Estimated Year-by-Year Cost of the Rule if All Large and Small Non-Traditional Establishments Select
                                        the New Poultry Inspection System
                                              [Millions of dollars]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Year 1       Year 2       Year 3       Year 4       Year 5     Recurring
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Annual sorting labor..............         5.01        10.03        15.04        16.12        17.20        17.20
Knowledge costs (human capital):
    Initial one-time training of           0.27         0.27         0.27         0.06         0.06  ...........
     sorting workers..............
    Training annual sorting labor-  ...........         0.11         0.22         0.32         0.35         0.37
     turnover rate of 40%.........
    Continuing annual education     ...........         0.12         0.24         0.35         0.38         0.40
     and training.................
One-time capital expenditure......         2.44         2.44         2.44         0.53         0.53  ...........
Paperwork cost due to attestation            **           **           **           **           **           **
 of work-related conditions.......
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total costs to                     7.73        12.97        18.21        17.38        18.51        17.97
         establishments from NPIS.
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Annualized (7%, 10 year)
         total cost to
         establishments from NPIS.                                      16.00
        Annualized (3%, 10 year)
         total cost to
         establishments from NPIS.                                      16.27
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
** less than $1000, which rounds to zero.

Items 8-12 Are Costs and Cost Savings Associated With the Mandatory 
Component of the Rule

8. Sampling and Analysis for Microbial Organisms Pre-Chill and Post-
Chill To Monitor Process Control for Enteric Pathogens--One-Time and 
Annual Cost Associated With the Mandatory Component
    FSIS is requiring microbial testing to demonstrate process control 
regarding the prevention of contamination of carcasses and parts by 
enteric pathogens and fecal contamination throughout the entire 
slaughter and dressing operation. FSIS is requiring establishments to 
incorporate these procedures into their HACCP plans, or sanitation 
SOPs, or other prerequisite programs, and to maintain records 
sufficient to document the implementation and monitoring of these 
procedures.
    The regulation requires most establishments for each poultry type 
to sample at two locations: pre-chill and post-chill. The exceptions 
are for very small HACCP size establishments that choose to operate 
under the modified Traditional Inspection System, which FSIS will 
permit to conduct sampling only at post-chill. For two samples per 
sampling event, FSIS assumes that it would take about 25 minutes for a 
QC technician to collect these samples; for one sample, FSIS assumes it 
would take 15 minutes to collect the sample. FSIS assumes costs of 
$3.75 for material and time needed to provide sampling record 
identification at the laboratory for two samples, and one-half that 
amount of time for one sample. For two locations, the cost per sampling 
event is $45.85; for one location, the cost per sampling event is 
$24.13.\29\ FSIS assumes a cost of sending material and samples between 
the establishment and laboratory of about $15 per sampling event, if 
the laboratory is not on-site. Most large establishments have 
laboratories on premises; FSIS assumes that 90 percent of large HACCP 
size establishments have laboratories on the premises, and thus would 
not incur a cost for sending samples to the laboratory. FSIS assumes 
that 25 percent of small and very small HACCP size establishments have 
laboratories onsite. Accounting for our assumed percentages of samples 
that would need to be sent to laboratories, FSIS assumes a cost of 
$47.35 per sampling event for large HACCP size establishments, $57.10 
per sampling event for small HACCP size establishments, and $35.38 per 
sampling event for very small HACCP size establishments (at one 
location).\30\ For record keeping (discussed in a later section), FSIS 
assumes 5 minutes for a sampling event for 2 locations, and 2.5 minutes 
for 1 location, at the same $29.03 per hour wage.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \29\ FSIS assumes that establishments would not necessarily use 
generic E coli because the cost per analysis of this organism is 
greater than that for other indicator organisms. While costs per 
sample can vary greatly depending on many factors, we assumed an 
average cost of $15 per sample, plus a modest laboratory labor cost 
($3.75) for handling paper. Therefore, the cost per sampling event 
collecting two samples, excluding sending cost, is $30 + $3.75 + 
$29.03(25/60) = $45.85. The cost per sampling event collecting one 
sample is $15 + $1.87 + $29.03(15/60) = $24.13.
    \30\ For example, for large HACCP size establishments, the cost 
per sampling event is: [(0.9) ($45.85) + (0.1) (45.85 + 15)] = 
$47.35, because we assumed that 90 percent of the samples would not 
need to be sent by mail.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    To establish a baseline, for other than very low volume 
establishments, FSIS assumes that large HACCP size establishments would 
collect 150 pairs of samples, on average; small HACCP size 
establishments, 75 pairs; and very small HACCP size establishments, 30 
samples. For very low volume establishments,\31\ FSIS assumes that 
sampling would be minimal, and that for these establishments there 
would be no baseline. The number of samples that establishments would 
collect for each poultry type is proportional to the number of 
slaughtered birds for the different poultry types.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \31\ FSIS assumes these establishments would remain under 
Traditional Inspection.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    To estimate the recurring annual cost for sampling, FSIS assumes 
sampling at a rate of 1 sampling event per 22,000 carcasses for 
sampling chicken, and 1 per 3,000 carcasses for sampling other species. 
For very low volume establishments, FSIS assumes at least one sample 
per week to a maximum of 16 samples per year, because some low volume 
establishments might need to take more than 13 samples to demonstrate 
process control.\32\ Based on

[[Page 49622]]

these assumptions, we calculated an expected number of sampling events 
that establishments would take, and multiplied these numbers by the 
appropriate costs per sampling event (weighted sum with weights equal 
to the appropriate cost for the sampling event). We provide cost 
estimates in Table 7b.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \32\ For the original HACCP rule, FSIS required 13 samples 
provided that statistical criteria that FSIS used were satisfied. 
The expected number of samples for this to occur is about 16.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FSIS expects industry to incur a savings by reducing present costs 
associated with sampling for satisfying the present Finished Product 
Standards (FPS), and that additional cost to industry due to our Other 
Consumer Protection (OCP) requirements, if any, would be minimal. Thus, 
FSIS did not include costs associated with the replacement of the 
present FPS requirements with the and new OCP requirements.
9. Additional Annual Recordkeeping, Monitoring, and Record Storage 
Associated With the Mandatory Component
    Establishments are required to maintain written documentation of 
sample results for verifying their process controls. FSIS assumes that 
the time spent for a QC technician salaried at $29.03 per hour for 
recording results (including review) for each sample is 2.5 minutes. If 
two samples are collected (pre-chill and post-chill), FSIS assumes 5 
minutes are needed. For the present required generic E. coli testing, 
FSIS assumes 2.5 minutes per sample.
10. (a.) Modification of the HACCP Plans and Process Control Plans--
One-time Cost Associated With the Mandatory Component of the Rule
    Establishments will need to modify their HACCP plans, sanitation 
SOPs, or other pre-requisite programs to address septicemic and toxemic 
carcasses and food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur. 
Establishments will also be required to maintain records to document 
that their product meets the definition for ready-to-cook poultry. 
Under the rule, establishments will have the flexibility to design and 
implement measures to address OCP defects that are best suited to their 
operations. They will also be responsible for determining the type of 
records that will best document that they are meeting the ready-to-cook 
poultry definition. FSIS based its estimates on information provided by 
establishments participating in the HIMP pilot program regarding 
initial costs for modifications to their HACCP plans. FSIS estimates 
that, on average, the initial costs will be about $5,000 for small 
HACCP size establishments and about $9,000 for large HACCP size 
establishments. For the very small HACCP size establishments, FSIS 
projected a cost of about $2,000, on average. Therefore, we estimate 
the one-time cost to be equal to about $1.89 million ((84 x $5,000) + 
(151 x $9,000) + (54 x $2,000)) for the 289 establishments.\33\ 
Moreover, once establishments design and implement these modifications, 
they will incorporate them in their present HACCP plans, and thus we 
assume no additional recurring cost associated with these 
modifications. FSIS does not expect these costs to vary by the type or 
species of bird that the establishments slaughter.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \33\ FSIS did not exclude HIMP establishments from this 
calculation, though FSIS believes that the cost for these 
establishments on average will be less. To the extent that this is 
true, the above estimate is high, given everything else being true.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

10. (b.) Written Procedures To Ensure That Carcasses and Parts With 
Visible Fecal Contamination Do Not Enter the Chiller, After 
Evisceration Operations--One-time Cost Associated With the Mandatory 
Component of the Rule
    FSIS is requiring that all federally inspected establishments that 
slaughtered poultry (other than ratites) develop, implement, and 
maintain, as part of their HACCP plans, sanitation SOPs, or other 
prerequisite programs, written procedures to ensure that carcasses and 
parts with visible fecal contamination do not enter the chiller after 
evisceration operations. The one-time cost to develop the plan is 
included in the costs of changing the HACCP system as discussed above 
in item 10.a.
10. (c.) Written Procedures To Ensure That Young Chicken and Turkey 
Carcasses Contaminated With Septicemic and Toxemic Conditions Do Not 
Enter the Chiller, for the New Poultry Inspection System Associated 
With the Mandatory Component of the Rule
    FSIS is requiring that the 219 federally inspected establishments 
that may decide to slaughter young chickens and turkeys under the NPIS 
develop, implement, and maintain written procedures to ensure that 
poultry carcasses contaminated with septicemic and toxemic conditions 
do not enter the chiller. Establishments must incorporate these 
procedures into their HACCP plans, sanitation SOPs, or other 
prerequisite programs. The cost for developing these written procedures 
is accounted for in the costs given in section 10.a.
11. Elimination of Generic E. coli and Salmonella Standards--Annual 
Cost Savings Associated With the Mandatory Component of the Rule
    FSIS is removing the current requirement that poultry 
establishments that slaughter more poultry than other species test for 
generic E. coli. Additionally, the agency is removing the codified 
Salmonella pathogen reduction performance standards for poultry because 
our existing Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards are 
better able to contribute to food safety. We used the same assumptions 
for the cost of sampling as described above in section 9, with the 
exception of assuming the analytical cost for generic E. coli is $20 
instead of $15.\34\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \34\ The cost of analyzing generic E. coli is greater than that 
of analyzing for Aerobic Plate Count (APC) because the former 
involves extra steps for identifying E. coli cells. Based on its 
experience with contracting, FSIS estimates that the analytical cost 
per sample for E. coli is about $5 more.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FSIS assumes the cost savings associated with eliminating the 
Salmonella performance standards are minimal, because typically 
establishments are sampled, on average, roughly once every two years; 
more than 95 percent of the sample sets' results satisfy FSIS's 
criteria; \35\ and establishment-recording costs for FSIS sampling are 
minimal. Therefore, FSIS did not account for savings due to eliminating 
this requirement.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \35\ U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food Safety and Inspection 
Service. (2011). Progress Report on Salmonella and Campylobacter 
Testing of Raw Meat and Poultry Products, 1998-2011. Washington, DC: 
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Progress_Report_Salmonella_Testing_1998-2011.pdf#page=14.
    In the years 2009-2011, FSIS sent a yearly average of about 125 
sample sets to establishments that slaughter young chicken and about 
26 to establishments that slaughter turkey. Thus, per year, roughly 
50 percent of the establishments received sample sets. Over 95 
percent of the sets show results that are in compliance with the 
performance standard.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

12. Elimination of Carcass Cooling Standards--Possible Cost Savings 
Associated With the Mandatory Component of the Rule
    FSIS projects that the elimination of carcass cooling standards 
will remove some of the ``bottleneck'' restrictions of the chilling 
system. FSIS projects that the birds may take less time to cool to meet 
this new requirement of no microbial growth. FSIS projects that the 
establishments will be able to increase the output from the chiller in 
order to accommodate increased line speed.

[[Page 49623]]

Total Costs and Cost Savings Associated With the Mandatory Component of 
the Rule
    Table 7b shows the implementation costs of complying with the 
mandatory actions of the rule, over time, for the 289 affected poultry 
establishments. For the 70 establishments expected to transition to the 
modified Traditional Inspection System, FSIS assumed that half would 
convert in year four, and the remaining half would convert in year 
five, mirroring the implementation of the small young chicken and 
turkey plants converting to NPIS. Again, annualized costs are 
calculated using a discount rate of 7 percent over a ten year planning 
period.

    Table 7b--Estimated Annual Cost (Cost Savings) of the Rule to All
 Establishments for Elements Associated With the Mandatory Component of
                                the Rule
                          [Millions of dollars]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Year 1           Recurring
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional PC microbial testing:*
    One-time baseline.............               1.34  .................
    Annual recurring testing......              23.59              23.59
Annual recordkeeping, monitoring,                1.17               1.17
 and record storage...............
Eliminated generic E. coli testing             (0.59)             (0.59)
 recordkeeping....................
One-time HACCP system and Process                1.89  .................
 Control (PC) plan development....
Reduced annual microbial testing--            (15.51)            (15.51)
 generic E. coli..................
Total costs to establishments from              11.90               8.67
 mandatory component..............
                                   -------------------------------------
Annualized (10 year, 7% discount)
 total mandatory costs............                  9.10
Annualized (10 year, 3% discount)
 total mandatory costs............                  9.04
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For the poultry industry, as shown in Table 7a, the annualized 
costs incurred if all establishments convert to NPIS are about $16.0 
million over 10 years at a 7 percent discount rate. To comply with the 
mandatory component, the rule will cost establishments about $9.1 
million over 10 years at a 7 percent discount rate. Net total costs to 
industry annualize to $25.1 million ($16.0 + $9.1).\36\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \36\ These costs annualized to about $25.3 million over 10 years 
using a 3 percent discount rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FSIS expects the 51 very small HACCP size establishments that 
slaughter young chicken and turkey and the three very small 
establishments that slaughter other poultry to adopt the modified 
Traditional Inspection System instead of NPIS. These establishments 
will only incur mandatory costs associated with items discussed above 
and listed in Table 7b. FSIS assumes a smaller analytical cost per 
sample for these establishments, and in some cases for establishments 
with large production volume, fewer numbers of samples.\37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \37\ In the final rule, FSIS is permitting very small HACCP size 
establishments to sample at one location, post-chill. Moreover, FSIS 
is permitting very low volume establishments to sample at a 
frequency similar to what is required presently. FSIS expects cost 
per sample to decrease because FSIS is no longer requiring 
establishments to sample for generic E. coli, but is permitting 
establishments to sample for other indicator organisms that are less 
expensive to analyze and expected to be more predictive of food 
safety concerns.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Table 7c lists estimated mandatory costs for the 54 very small 
HACCP size establishments. Estimated annualized costs to very small 
establishments are approximately $11,760, which is about $218 per 
establishment. This represents an average annual cost per bird of 
approximately 0.098 cents, or 0.025 cents per pound, based on the 
assumption that very small establishments slaughter about 12 million 
birds annually, at an average weight of about 4 pounds per bird.

Table 7c--Estimated Annual Cost (Cost Savings) of the Rule to Very Small
     HACCP Size Establishments (54) for Elements Associated With the
                   Mandatory Component of the New Rule
                         [Thousands of dollars]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Year 1           Recurring
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional PC microbial testing--
 plate counts, collection,
 packaging, shipping
    One-time baseline (including                 4.25  .................
     recordkeeping)...............
    Annual recurring testing......              22.47              22.47
Annual recordkeeping, monitoring,                0.77               0.77
 and record storage...............
Eliminated generic E. coli testing             (0.77)             (0.77)
 recordkeeping....................
One-time HACCP system plans and                108.00  .................
 Process Control (PC) plan
 development (item 11.a)..........
Reduced annual microbial testing--            (25.64)            (25.64)
 generic E. coli plate counts.....
Total costs to establishments from             109.07             (3.18)
 mandatory component..............
                                   -------------------------------------
Annualized total costs (7% for 10
 years)...........................                  11.76
Annualized total costs (3% for 10
 years)...........................                  9.60
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Expected FSIS Budgetary Effects

    Table 8 shows the potential FSIS budgetary net savings from the 
rule for the slaughter of all poultry other than ratites and including 
the NPIS for the slaughter of young chickens and turkeys.
    FSIS used the following scenario assumptions to project the 
potential FSIS budgetary effects of the rule:
     Of the 219 establishments that may adopt the NPIS, an 
estimated 175 establishments (150 young chicken establishments and 25 
turkey establishments) may be affected by FSIS

[[Page 49624]]

personnel changes. The estimated 175 establishments do not include the 
25 young chicken and turkey establishments currently operating under 
the HIMP program. FSIS also excluded approximately 19 other poultry 
establishments currently operating under the SIP waivers, even though 
FSIS expects them to choose to participate in the NPIS because FSIS 
expects the impact on these 19 establishments to be relatively small. 
Establishments that change operations but continue to produce will 
continue to have FSIS inspectors.
     1,498 food inspector grade increases (from GS-7 to GS-8) 
(1,284 inspectors in young chicken establishments and 214 inspectors in 
turkey establishments)
     241 relief inspector grade increases (GS-7 to GS-8) \38\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \38\ Some inspection personnel will be promoted from GS-7 to GS-
8 due to assuming higher graded duties. These new Carcass/
Verification Inspector positions will perform routine and directed 
inspection verification tasks to evaluate the establishment's 
regulatory compliance and process control. The inspector collects 
samples for pathogen testing, performs certain sample analysis, and 
conducts post-mortem and ante-mortem inspection. The inspector also 
performs verifications of good commercial practices, zero tolerance 
for fecal and septicemia/toxemia, establishment microbiological 
testing for preventing contamination throughout operations, food 
safety systems, and sanitary dressing requirements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     FSIS is uncertain of the size of any reduction of food 
inspector positions through managing vacancy or refill rates. Some 
personnel are also expected to voluntarily retire. The range of 
potential reductions is 0 to 630 (see table 8b). For purpose of this 
analysis, FSIS includes the maximum potential change to calculate the 
maximum potential effect. Approximately 190 of the 630 inspector 
positions will be relocated to existing vacancies within the agency.
     FSIS is uncertain of the size of any reduction of 
approximately 140 Supervisory Consumer Safety Inspector (SCSI) 
positions. The range of potential reductions is 0 to 140 (see table 
8b). For purpose of this analysis, FSIS includes the maximum potential 
change to calculate the maximum potential effect. Of those 140 SCSI 
personnel, approximately 112 will be relocated to existing vacancies 
within the agency with the remaining number expected to retire.
     Training costs to include training of promoted personnel 
and training for all personnel on the NPIS implementation processes.

  Table 8--Estimated Potential Annual Cost (Cost Savings) of the Rule to FSIS: Elements Associated With the New
                                            Poultry Inspection System
                                              [Millions of dollars]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Category                    Year 1      Year 2      Year 3      Year 4      Year 5     Recurring
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cost from Grade Increases (Salary &            $1.2        $3.5        $5.8        $7.0        $7.4        $7.6
 Benefits)..............................
Savings From Positions Eliminated.......      ($5.2)     ($16.9)     ($28.6)     ($36.1)     ($38.1)     ($39.0)
Training Costs..........................       $2.0        $2.0        $2.0        $0.3        $0.3        $0.0
Relocation Costs........................       $1.4        $1.4        $1.4        $0.2        $0.2        $0.0
Total Cost (Savings)....................      ($0.6)     ($10.0)     ($19.4)     ($28.5)     ($30.1)     ($31.4)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: FSIS, Office of the Chief Financial Officer.


   Table 8b--Estimated Potential Budgetary Effects to FSIS by Adoption Rate: Elements Associated With the New
                                            Poultry Inspection System
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                           Adoption Rate
                     Category                     --------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      0%      10%      25%      50%      75%      90%      100%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Food Inspector Grade Increases...................  .......      150      375      749    1,124    1,348    1,498
Relief Inspector Grade Increases.................  .......       24       60      121      181      217      241
Reduction in Food Inspector Positions............  .......       63      158      315      473      567      630
Reduction in Supervisory Consumer Safety           .......       14       35       70      105      126      140
 Inspectors......................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FSIS expects a potential net cost savings of $0.6 million in the 
first year of implementation. FSIS expects potential net cost savings 
to total $10.0 million the second year of implementation. Cost savings 
from position elimination (potentially totaling $16.9 million) scale 
with the number of establishments that opt into NPIS and will therefore 
more than offset the increase in one-time costs the agency will incur 
the second year. Potential annual cost savings are expected to total 
$31.4 million after the fifth year. The Agency's potential annual costs 
for FSIS food and relief inspectors upgrades from GS-7 to GS-8 will 
increase to $7.6 million after the fifth year of adoption. These 
additional costs will be more than offset by the Agency's annual cost 
savings from position elimination, potentially totaling $39.0 million.

Expected Benefits Associated With the New Poultry Inspection System--
Public Health Benefits From Reallocating FSIS Inspection Activities

    FSIS hypothesizes that switching existing FSIS IPP activities 
towards more offline verification activities (such as sanitation 
performance standards, sampling, other inspection requirements, and 
fecal inspections) will reduce pathogen levels in poultry slaughter 
establishments. This is supported by the regression analysis of 
historical data presented in the FSIS Risk Assessment (July 2014), 
which found a significant correlation between more offline inspection 
activities and lower levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter in certain 
poultry products. It is possible that these reductions may lead to a 
corresponding reduction in illnesses.
    In Table 5 of FSIS' Risk Assessment (July 2014), FSIS presents 
estimates that industry-wide adoption of NPIS would reduce the number 
of human illness attributed to young chicken and turkey products by an 
average of about 3,980 (with a range of 1,510 to 6,960) Salmonella 
illnesses and about 840 (with a range of 100 to 1,860) Campylobacter 
illnesses. Annual Salmonella cost savings from an averted

[[Page 49625]]

case is estimated to be $2,423 \39\ and the annual Campylobacter cost 
savings from an averted case is estimated to be $2,067.\40\ Thus, FSIS 
estimates that the potential monetized value of the human illness 
reductions is an annual average of about $11.38 million (with a range 
of $3.87 million to $20.71 million). These estimates may underestimate 
the average cost of illness because they include medical costs and 
loss-of-productivity costs. They do not include pain and suffering 
costs or, in the case of Salmonella, the cost of accelerated mortality.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \39\ The FSIS estimate for the average cost of Salmonella 
illnesses ($2,423 per case--2010 dollars) was developed using the 
USDA, ERS Foodborne Illness Costs Calculator: Salmonella (June-
2011). FSIS updated the ERS calculator to include Scallan case 
distribution for Salmonella. Scallan, E., Hoekstra, R., Angulo, F., 
et.al. (2011). Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States--
Major Pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17 (1), 7-15.
    \40\ The FSIS estimate for the average cost of Campylobacter 
illnesses ($2,067 per case--2010 dollars) is based on Hoffman 
(2012). Annual Cost of Illness and QALY-Adjusted Life Year Losses in 
the United States Due to Fourteen Foodborne Pathogens. Journal of 
Food Protection, 75(7), 1292-1302. The ERS Cost calculator does not 
include an estimate for Campylobacter illnesses.

  Table 9--Total Potential Reductions in Human Illnesses or Illnesses Averted and Projected Cost Savings Due to
          Better Inspection Procedure Performance in Young Chicken and Turkey Slaughter Establishments
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            What happens if young chicken and turkey establishments have the
                                       anticipated increase in unscheduled offline inspection procedures?1 2 3 4
                                                                           5
                                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Range
                                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Expected Value          10th Percentile          90th Percentile
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Annual Salmonella Cost Savings 6 and   $9.64 million..........  $3.66 million..........  $16.86 million.
 Averted Illnesses:                    (3,980 illnesses         (1,510 illnesses         (6,960 illnesses
                                        averted).                averted).                averted).
Annual Campylobacter Cost Savings 7    $1.74 million..........  $0.21 million..........  $3.84 million.
 and Averted Illnesses:                (840 illnesses averted)  (100 illnesses averted)  (1,860 illnesses
                                                                                          averted).
                                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Annual Total Cost Savings..........  $11.38 million.........  $3.87 million..........  $20.71 million.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The number of establishments in each size category throughout the economic analysis is different from the
  number used in the risk assessment. The risk assessment uses the most recent data for the correlation between
  baseline and inspection data (2008) and participating establishments, while the economic analysis uses 2010
  size categories to reflect the most up-to-date size distribution.
\2\ The reported expected reductions in illnesses represent the unscheduled inspection procedures scenario from
  the risk assessment. FSIS selected this scenario to represent expected reduction in illnesses because it
  involved an increase in targeted off-line inspection activities and not a random increase in all off-line
  inspection activities, as represented in the indiscriminate scenario.
\3\ Totals may not add up due to rounding.
\4\ These estimates represent a lower bound for an average cost of illness because they only include medical
  costs, loss-of-productivity costs (Salmonella and Campylobacter), and the value of reduced mortality
  (Campylobacter only). They do not include pain and suffering costs.
\5\ FSIS explored--using a modified database--the effect of the very small plants on the output of the risk
  assessment. Specifically, it used additional regression modeling post-analysis to look at what impact the
  removal of very small establishments would have on the risk assessment results (see the risk assessment for
  further details). That post-analysis showed no discernible difference from inclusion of very small
  establishments in the changes in attributable human illnesses due to the poultry slaughter rule.
\6\ The FSIS estimate for the average cost of Salmonella illnesses ($2,423 per case--2010 dollars) was developed
  using the USDA, ERS Foodborne Illness Costs Calculator: Salmonella (June-2011). FSIS updated the ERS
  calculator to include Scallan case distribution for Salmonella. Scallan, E., Hoekstra, R., Angulo, F., et.al.
  (2011). Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States--Major Pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17
  (1), 7-15.
\7\ The FSIS estimate for the average cost of Campylobacter illnesses ($2,067 per case--2009 dollars, the latest
  cost per illness data available) is based on Hoffman (2012). Annual Cost of Illness and QALY-Adjusted Life
  Year Losses in the United States Due to Fourteen Foodborne Pathogens. Journal of Food Protection, 75(7), 1292-
  1302. The ERS Cost calculator does not include an estimate for Campylobacter illnesses.

    Potential annual benefits as shown in Table 9 would not be realized 
fully unless and until all establishments convert to NPIS. Since the 
adoption of NPIS may occur over a five year period, FSIS estimated the 
incremental public health benefits that would be achieved under this 
scenario as establishments make the transition to the new system. FSIS 
used approximate volume distributions \41\ along with the assumed 
implementation timeline to calculate these estimates, displayed in 
Table 10.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \41\ See footnote 27.

  Table 10--Estimated Incremental Public Health Benefits if All Large and Small Non-Traditional Establishments
                                            Adopt NPIS Within 5 Years
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Year 1          Year 2          Year 3          Year 4         Recurring
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Salmonella Cost Savings.........            2.89            5.78            8.68            9.16            9.64
Campylobacter Cost Savings and              0.52            1.04            1.57            1.65            1.74
 Incremental Longevity Value....
Total Cost Savings and                      3.41            6.83           10.24           10.81           11.38
 Incremental Longevity Value....
10th Percentile.................            1.16            2.32            3.48            3.68            3.87
90th Percentile.................            6.21           12.42           18.63           19.67           20.70
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 
                                                        Expected value      10th Percentile     90th Percentile
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Annualized total cost savings and Incremental                       9.56                3.25               17.39
 Longevity Value (7% for 10 years)..................
Annualized total cost savings and Incremental                       9.79                3.33               17.81
 Longevity Value (3% for 10 years)..................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 49626]]

Unquantifiable Benefits and Costs Associated With NPIS and the 
Mandatory Portion of the Rule--Public Health Benefits Resulting From 
Preventing Contamination of Carcasses and Parts by Enteric Pathogens 
and Fecal Material Throughout the Entire Slaughter and Dressing 
Operation

    In addition to the benefits listed in the previous section, FSIS 
expects benefits associated with an increase in line speed for turkey 
establishments. Turkey establishments will have the option of 
increasing their line speed from a maximum of 51 to 55 birds per 
minute. Establishments will determine their line speeds based on their 
equipment and facilities, bird size and flock conditions, and their 
ability to maintain process control when operating at a given line 
speed.
    FSIS also expects public health benefits from the mandatory 
component of the rule, which will apply to all poultry slaughter 
establishments. FSIS is requiring that all poultry slaughter 
establishments develop, implement, and maintain, as part of their HACCP 
plans, sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs, written 
procedures to prevent contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric 
pathogens and fecal contamination throughout the entire slaughter and 
dressing operation. FSIS is requiring that, at a minimum, these 
procedures must include sampling and analysis for microbial organisms 
at the pre-chill and post-chill points in the process to monitor 
process control for enteric pathogens. The exceptions are for very 
small HACCP size establishments and very low volume establishments that 
choose to operate under the modified Traditional Inspection System for 
which FSIS will permit sampling at post-chill only if they show that 
testing at one location is sufficient. Effective sanitary dressing and 
process control procedures are crucial to an establishment's ability to 
produce a clean, safe, and wholesome product. The existing regulations 
require that establishments prevent poultry carcasses contaminated with 
visible fecal contamination from entering the chiller (9 CFR 
381.65(a)). To enhance compliance with this requirement, FSIS is 
requiring that establishments develop, implement, and maintain written 
procedures that ensure that poultry carcasses contaminated with visible 
fecal material do not enter the chiller.
    While preventing poultry carcasses contaminated with visible fecal 
material from entering the chiller is an important safeguard for 
reducing the prevalence of pathogens on poultry carcasses, this result 
generally cannot be effectively accomplished unless establishments 
implement appropriate measures to prevent contamination from occurring 
throughout the slaughter and dressing operation and implement process 
controls for them.
    Although many establishments do have process control measures in 
place to prevent contamination of carcasses by enteric pathogens and 
fecal material throughout the slaughter and dressing process, they are 
not required to maintain written procedures that describe their 
measures and process controls or to maintain records to verify the 
effectiveness of their process controls in preventing contaminated 
carcasses from entering the chiller. Written plans that describe an 
establishment's procedures and controls, including monitoring and 
evaluation criteria, will greatly aid establishments in consistently 
ensuring compliance with preventing fecal material on carcasses from 
entering the chiller. The written plans and record keeping requirement 
of this rule will also aid FSIS's inspectors in evaluations of an 
establishment's procedures that are designed to ensure compliance with 
the regulations.
    In addition, under the existing regulations, official poultry 
slaughter establishments are required to comply with requirements for 
testing for generic E. coli at the end of the chilling process as a 
means of verifying process control. As discussed earlier in this 
document, FSIS's experience with using post-chill testing for generic 
E. coli to monitor process control for fecal contamination and sanitary 
dressing has led the Agency to conclude that such testing might not be 
the most effective way to prevent contamination from occurring 
throughout the slaughter and dressing operation. Therefore, FSIS is 
removing the generic E. coli testing requirements and replacing them 
with a more microbiological-focused testing scheme that provides for 
testing at the pre-chill and post-chill locations. Such a testing 
scheme has the benefit of allowing poultry slaughter establishments to 
have the flexibility they need to determine which microbiological 
organisms and measurement procedures will best help them to monitor the 
effectiveness of their process control procedures. This will lead to 
more tailored, and thus more effective process monitoring and quicker 
response to out of control processing, thereby reducing contamination 
of pathogens on carcasses.
    The information and procedural enhancements described above may be 
followed by the disposal of contaminated product, cooking the product 
longer, or other cost-generating actions by the establishment. Thus, 
any unquantified public health benefits of the rule may be accompanied 
by unquantified industry costs.
    In summary, FSIS is requiring that establishments incorporate their 
procedures for preventing contamination of carcasses with enteric 
pathogens and fecal material into their HACCP systems, and that they 
maintain records sufficient to document the implementation and 
monitoring of their procedures. These records will improve the 
establishment's overall HACCP system by providing additional 
documentation that the establishment and FSIS can use to verify the 
effectiveness of the establishment's process control procedures. The 
records that would be required under this rule, including the records 
of the establishment's testing results, will provide an establishment 
with ongoing information on the effectiveness of its process controls, 
and allow it to identify situations associated with an increase in 
microbial levels so that it can take the necessary corrective actions 
to prevent further potential contamination. The documentation could 
result in the lower probability of recall, resulting in enhanced 
product reputation when a product is not subject to recall, which would 
benefit the implementing establishment. The rule's documentation 
requirements could also lower the costs of identifying contaminated 
product of a recall as well as limit the scope of a product recall 
should a recall occur, since the establishment records would allow it 
to identify the point when a lack of process control could have 
resulted in product contamination.

Summary of Net Benefits

    Considering the benefits and costs discussed, if we were to assume 
for purposes of analysis that all small and large non-Traditional 
establishments were to switch to NPIS, FSIS expects average benefits to 
the public health and FSIS of about $32.4 million (annualized, 10-years 
at 7 percent). In this case, annualized (10-years, at 7 percent) 
industry costs are an estimated $25.1 million. Annual net benefits, 
therefore, would be an estimated $7.3 million. Table 11 provides the 
summary of estimated annualized net benefits for various possible 
percentages of the industry that switch to NPIS. As noted above, NPIS 
may provide an incentive for establishments to switch from their 
current inspection systems to NPIS; however, it is possible that the 
costs associated with NPIS adoption will be

[[Page 49627]]

greater than the potential benefits for some establishments. Given the 
lack of data with which to make cost-benefit comparisons across the 
industry, Table 11 presents a wide range of possibilities for the 
percentage of large and small non-Traditional establishments that will 
choose to adopt NPIS.

   Table 11--Estimated Net Social Benefits From the Rule (Millions of Dollars), Annualized Over 10 Years With a 7% Discount Rate, for Varying Percent
                                                               Changes That Switch to NPIS
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Percentage of Industry that Switches to NPIS \1\
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      0%             10%               25%               50%               75%               90%              100%
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NPIS: \2\
Benefits:
    Public health benefits               0.0  1.0 (0.3 to 1.7)  2.4 (0.8 to 4.3)  4.8 (1.6 to 8.7)       7.2 (2.4 to       8.6 (2.9 to       9.6 (3.3 to
     (10%, 90%)................                                                                                13.0)             15.7)             17.4)
FSIS net savings...............          0.0               2.3               5.7              11.4              17.1              20.5              22.8
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unquantified benefits \3\..   Increased flexibility for establishments to design and implement production measures tailored to their operations, in
                                              some cases possibly including increased line speed up to 140 chickens or 55 turkeys per minute
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Costs:
    Costs to establishments....          0.0               1.6               4.0               8.0              12.0              14.4              16.0
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unquantified costs \3\.....      Industry costs of responding to new NPIS inspections in a manner that may lead to public health benefits (e.g.,
                                                                    discarding contaminated food or cooking it longer)
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mandatory Component:
    Costs to establishments....          9.1               9.1               9.1               9.1               9.1               9.1               9.1
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unquantified benefits......                         Potential additional public health benefits from documentation and testing
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unquantified costs.........   Industry costs of responding to information generated by documentation and testing in a manner that may lead to public
                                                        health benefits (e.g., discarding contaminated food or cooking it longer)
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total benefits (10%, 90%)..          0.0  3.3 (2.6 to 4.0)       8.1 (6.5 to     16.2 (13.0 to     24.3 (19.5 to     29.1 (23.4 to     32.4 (26.0 to
                                                                           10.0)             20.1)             30.1)             36.2)             40.2)
    Total costs................          9.1              10.7              13.1              17.1              21.1              23.5              25.1
    Net benefits (10%, 90%)....         -9.1   -7.4 (-8.1 to -     -5 (-6.6 to -     -0.9 (-4.1 to      3.2 (-1.6 to      5.6 (-0.1 to       7.3 (0.9 to
                                                          6.7)              3.1)              3.0)              9.0)             12.7)             15.1)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ For costs and FSIS net savings, the relevant industry measure is the percentage of large and small establishments that switch to NPIS, whereas for
  public health benefits, the relevant industry measure is percentage of product volume that is slaughtered in establishments that switch to NPIS.
\2\ The switch to NPIS includes two sets of policy changes: (1) the removal of some online FSIS inspectors, which generates labor cost savings for NPIS,
  costs to industry of training and attestation, and the unquantified benefit to establishments of increased flexibility, and (2) the increase in
  offline inspection activities by FSIS, which generates the estimated public health improvements, the associated unquantified costs, the quantified
  costs to industry of installing new inspection stations, and the quantified costs to FSIS of grade increases, training and relocation.
\3\ As with quantified costs and benefits, unquantified NPIS-related cost and benefit estimates would be scaled proportionately to reflect the
  percentage of the industry that switches to NPIS.
4 Annualized Over 10 Years with a 3% discount rate at 100% adoption rate, total benefits (10%, 90%) equal $33.6 million (27.1 to 41.6), total costs
  equal $25.3 million. Net benefits equal $8.3 million (1.8 to 16.3).

Analysis of Considered Alternatives

            Table 13--Comparisons of the Considered Alternatives to the Final Poultry Slaughter Rule
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Considered alternatives                 Benefits                Costs \1\               Net benefits
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A. Taking No Action..................  No change in the         Establishments would     Zero Net Benefits.
                                        existing inspection      maintain existing
                                        systems for poultry.     practices.
                                        FSIS does not need
                                        significantly more
                                        resources.
B. The Rule..........................  Public health benefits   Annualized costs equal   Selected Alternative
                                        from reduced illnesses   $25.1 million. See       with annualized net
                                        and FSIS savings add     Tables 7a and 7b above   benefits equal $7.3
                                        to total benefits of     for explanation of       million.
                                        $26.0 million to $40.2   these costs.
                                        million annually.
                                        Additional
                                        unquantified public
                                        health benefits from
                                        NPIS and mandatory
                                        components of the rule.
C. The Final Rule Without Offline      Additional FSIS cost     Annualized costs equal   Net benefits will be
 Inspection Activity.                   savings associated       to Alternative B.        lower than Alternative
                                        with a reduction in                               B due to loss of
                                        offline inspector                                 public health
                                        positions.                                        benefits.

[[Page 49628]]

 
D. Requiring Only the New Poultry      Public health benefits   Annualized costs         The net benefits will
 Inspection System.                     from reduced illnesses   greater than $20.5       be lower than
                                        and FSIS savings add     million. All             Alternative B due to
                                        to total benefits of     establishments not       the increased burden
                                        $26.1 million to $40.2   included in              on very small
                                        million annually No      Alternative B will       establishments.
                                        additional               accrue additional
                                        unquantified benefits,   costs.
                                        as detailed in section
                                        titled
                                        ``Unquantifiable
                                        Benefits Associated
                                        with the Mandatory
                                        Portion of the Rule.''.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A. Taking No Action
    FSIS considered maintaining the current inspection system and 
finished product standards requirements for the 289 establishments that 
slaughtered young chickens and turkeys, and other poultry in 2010. FSIS 
rejected this alternative because the NPIS will allow poultry 
establishments slaughtering young chickens, turkeys and other poultry 
to benefit and to enhance their food safety efforts through increased 
flexibility and opportunity for innovation. FSIS would not be able to 
focus its inspection activities on verification of process controls for 
product safety and OCPs or on additional offline activities (such as 
unscheduled sanitary procedures, for example). Therefore this 
alternative would not result in any public health benefits. This action 
will have zero net benefits.
B. The Rule
    FSIS's preferred alternative is the final rule as discussed above. 
The final rule has an elective NPIS for young chickens and turkeys; a 
modified Traditional Inspection System for all poultry other than 
ratites; requirements that establishments develop, implement, and 
maintain written procedures to prevent contamination of carcasses with 
enteric pathogens and fecal material contamination, and that these 
procedures include, at a minimum, two locations for sampling for 
microbial organisms to monitor process control for enteric pathogens 
(except HACCP very small and very low volume establishments); and other 
actions (see Table 2).
    The rule gives the individual establishment the choice between the 
NPIS (with or without the HIMP SIP waiver), the modified Traditional 
Inspection System, and their current inspection system (SIS, NELS, or 
NTIS). An establishment will choose the NPIS if the benefits, primarily 
from the expected increased flexibility of operations, exceed the costs 
of implementation. While this would probably be true for the HACCP 
large and HACCP small establishments that slaughter young chickens and 
turkeys, it may not be true for the HACCP very small establishments. 
FSIS selected this alternative to minimize the impact on very small 
establishments and to allow them the flexibility to choose the modified 
Traditional Inspection System or their current inspection system if 
they stand to lose from the NPIS.
    Public health benefits (as discussed in section titled ``Expected 
Benefits Associated with the NPIS--Public Health Benefits from 
Reallocating FSIS Inspection Activities'') of the rule include a 
reduction in illnesses attributed to young chicken and turkey. The 
monetized annualized value of this reduction is $3.3 million to $17.4 
million. FSIS annualized savings under the rule are expected to equal 
$22.8 million.
    Costs of the rule include $16.0 million annualized for the 
conversion of establishments to NPIS, and $9.1 million annualized (10 
years, 7 percent) for the mandatory component of the rule (see Tables 
7a and 7b). This corresponds to total costs of about $25.1 million 
annualized. Net benefits of the rule are estimated at $7.3 million.
C. The Rule Without Offline Inspection Activities
    Removing the offline inspectors would eliminate the health benefits 
of the rule which is the main purpose of the rule. While removing 
offline inspectors might affect the savings for FSIS, the Agency could 
not estimate any additional savings at this time because the offline 
inspectors were part of an integrated inspections plan so the offline 
inspectors could not be pulled out of the plan or the estimate. More 
importantly, any changes to FSIS savings would be insignificant 
compared to the loss of public health benefits.
D. Requiring the New Poultry Inspection System
    FSIS considered requiring that all establishments convert to the 
NPIS. The benefits from this alternative include, as under the rule, 
the budgetary savings to FSIS from reallocation of personnel and public 
health benefits of $9.6 million annually from reduced illnesses.
    As shown in Table 7a, costs to firms that adopt the new rule are 
about $16.0 million annualized over 10 years at 7 percent.
    Under this alternative, all firms, including the very small firms 
that FSIS expects will not adopt the rule, must adopt some measures, as 
listed in Table 7b. These costs are from plan development, 
recordkeeping and testing. The benefits \42\ of these activities 
include the conduct of business in a manner more accountable to the 
public; the support and documentation of production safety decision-
making; and the facilitation of oversight and transparency activities 
like audits and inspections. The recordkeeping requirements are 
designed to help operators of facilities and the Agency to identify 
potential sources of contamination as well as contain and mitigate the 
adverse health effects of contaminated food. Many of these benefits are 
unquantifiable: the lower probability of recall, the lower costs of 
identifying contaminated product if a recall occurs, and enhanced 
product reputation when a product is not subject to recall, all benefit 
the implementing firms. Table 7c lists the mandatory costs that FSIS 
expects for the 54 very small establishments that FSIS projects will 
not adopt the new inspection system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \42\ Please see the FDA's preliminary regulatory impact analysis 
of the Preventive Controls rule for a similar discussion of 
recordkeeping benefits.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This alternative would result in higher costs for the industry, 
specifically for very small establishments that would have difficulty 
absorbing such costs. The annual benefits would be the same as 
alternative B, the rule. FSIS rejected this

[[Page 49629]]

alternative because it would result in lower net benefits.

V. Final Regulatory Flexibility Act

    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, FSIS reviewed 
the rule for its effects on small businesses. In response to public 
comments received on the impact on small business, FSIS relaxed the 
proposed requirement for small businesses to sample and test at pre-
chill and post-chill to allow very small HACCP size establishments to 
sample and test only at post-chill. In addition, FSIS is maintaining 
its present sampling frequency requirement for very low volume 
establishments. This change reduces the costs imposed on small 
establishments. The FSIS Administrator certifies that, for the purposes 
of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-602), this rule will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities in the United States.
    In this final regulatory flexibility analysis, FSIS first analyzes 
the impact on the Agency-assigned HACCP small and very small size 
categories. Then, FSIS highlights the minimal impact of the regulation 
on very small and small companies.
    FSIS will modernize and streamline poultry slaughter inspection 
because of its 2011 regulatory review. The Agency is taking this action 
to improve food safety and the effectiveness of poultry slaughter 
inspection systems, remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to 
innovation, and make better use of the Agency's resources.
    In this final regulatory flexibility analysis, FSIS uses a 
definition of small entities that is similar, but not identical, to 
that used by the Small Business Administration \43\ and is more 
appropriate with respect to estimating possible adverse economic 
effects. The Small Business Administration defines a small business in 
terms of ownership, while the HACCP production size definition \44\ 
applies to individual establishments and not companies that might own 
more than one establishment. FSIS considers establishments to be the 
economic entity of interest in this rule and thus uses the HACCP size 
definition to characterize establishments that this rule might affect 
adversely.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \43\ The Small Business Administration defines a small business 
in poultry processing as an entity that is independently owned and 
operated, is organized for profit, is not dominant, and has 500 or 
fewer employees.
    \44\ HAACP production size classes: large establishments, with 
500 or more employees; small establishments, with 10-499 employees; 
and very small establishments, with fewer than 10 employees or 
annual sales of less than $2.5 million.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FSIS considered requiring the mandatory use of dressing performance 
standards and the NPIS in all federally inspected establishments that 
slaughter young chickens and turkeys, but rejected that alternative in 
order to provide small and very small HACCP size establishments with a 
choice between using the NPIS, or using the modified Traditional 
Inspection System. Given a choice, FSIS anticipates that large and 
small HACCP size establishments that slaughter young chickens and 
turkeys will find it in their economic interest to adopt the new 
inspection system. In contrast, FSIS anticipates that HACCP very small 
establishments that slaughter young chickens and turkeys will choose to 
operate under the modified Traditional Inspection System. The very 
small HACCP size young chicken and turkey establishments, in general, 
do not have sufficient output volume over which to spread the initial 
set-up costs of the NPIS or the training and maintenance costs 
resulting from this system. There are 51 such establishments. In 
addition, HACCP establishments that slaughter poultry other than young 
chickens and turkeys will operate under the modified Traditional 
Inspection System. There are 19 establishments that slaughter poultry 
other than young chickens and turkeys, of which 14 are small HACCP size 
establishments and three are very small HACCP size establishments. 
Consequently, we identify 68 establishments that might not realize the 
full benefits of the rule. Table 14 shows the number of poultry 
slaughter facilities by HACCP size and type of poultry slaughtered 
based on the above discussion.

  Table 14--Summary of HACCP Establishment Size of the 289 Official Establishments That Slaughtered All Poultry Under Federal Inspection in 2010 (FSIS
                                                                       ADRS, 2010)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                         Percent of all
                    Type of Operation                          Very small           Small              Large              Total          establishments
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Young Chicken and Turkeys................................                 51                 70                149                270                 93
Other Poultry............................................                  3                 14                  2                 19                  7
                                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total................................................                 54                 84                151                289                100
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In Table 15, in contrast to Table 15, FSIS classified the 289 
establishments into the appropriate SBA categories in order to show the 
establishment distribution over SBA small and large companies by number 
of companies and number of establishments.

             Table 15--Distribution of Establishments Over SBA Defined Small and Not-Small Companies
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                             Number of          Number of           Share of
             Company size (SBA definition)                   companies        establishments     establishments
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Small..................................................                109                110                38%
Large..................................................                 49                179                61%
                                                        --------------------------------------------------------
    Total..............................................                158                289               100%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Approximately 38 percent, or 110, of all establishments belong to 
SBA small companies. Some of the SBA companies are not very low volume 
slaughter operations and FSIS expects many will choose to operate under 
NPIS.

[[Page 49630]]

Consequently, to measure possible adverse impact on small business, 
FSIS's analysis concentrates on the 68 establishments identified above.

Cost Impact--Very Small Establishments

    FSIS projects the costs of the mandatory component of the rule to 
be approximately $218, annualized over 10 years at a 7 percent discount 
rate, per very small HACCP size establishment processing young 
chickens, turkeys, or other types of poultry, for a total of about 
$11,759 annualized annualized across the existing 54 very small 
establishments (Table 7c). FSIS expects net annual recurring cost 
savings after the sixth year, because the rule permits these 
establishments to design more efficient process control plans, and 
sample only at one location. The cost savings associated with 
eliminating generic E. coli testing will more than offset the 
additional costs associated with the new required microbial testing 
requirement because the cost of analyzing for generic E. coli is more 
than that of analyzing for other indicator organisms and FSIS does not 
expect the number of samples per year to increase from the present.

Cost Impact--Small Establishments

    For the 14 small HACCP size poultry slaughter establishments 
covered in this rule that do not process young chickens and turkeys, 
FSIS projects costs of the mandatory component of the rule to be 
approximately $11,579, annualized 10 years at a 7 percent discount 
rate, per establishment, for a total of about $162,100 annualized 
across all 14 establishments. Net annual recurring costs are 
approximately $10,319 per establishment after the sixth year, for a 
total of $144,470 across all 14 small establishments.

Cost Impact--Total

    Table 16 presents the combined cost impact for both very small 
HACCP size establishments (Table 7c) and small HACCP size 
establishments that do not slaughter young chickens and turkeys.

Table 16--Estimated Annual Cost (or Cost Savings) of the Rule for Very Small HACCP Size Establishments That Produce Young Chickens and Turkeys and Small
                                 HACCP Size Establishments That Slaughter Poultry Other Than Young Chickens and Turkeys
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                             10 Year annualized
                        HACCP size                             Number of            Year 1           Recurring     -------------------------------------
                                                             establishments                                                 7%                 3%
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Very Small...............................................                 54           $109,069           ($3,177)            $11,759             $9,599
Small....................................................                 14           $276,960           $144,470           $162,100           $159,549
                                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total................................................                 68           $386,029           $141,293           $173,859           $169,148
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VI. Executive Order 12988

    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil 
Justice Reform. When this final rule is adopted: (1) All State and 
local laws and regulation that are inconsistent with this rule will be 
preempted; (2) no retroactive effect will be given to this rule; and 
(3) administrative proceedings will not be required before parties ay 
file suit in court challenging this rule.

VII. E-Government Act

    FSIS and USDA are committed to achieving the purposes of the E-
Government Act (44 U.S.C. 3601, et seq.) by, among other things, 
promoting the use of the Internet and other information technologies 
and providing increased opportunities for citizen access to government 
information and services, and for other purposes.

VIII. Executive Order 13175

    This final rule has been reviewed in accordance with the 
requirements of Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination 
with Indian Tribal Governments. The review reveals that this regulation 
will not have substantial and direct effects on Tribal governments and 
will not have significant Tribal implications.

IX. USDA Non-Discrimination Statement

USDA Non-Discrimination Statement

    No agency, officer, or employee of the USDA shall, on the grounds 
of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual 
orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, 
income derived from a public assistance program, or political beliefs, 
exclude from participation in, deny the benefits of, or subject to 
discrimination any person in the United States under any program or 
activity conducted by the USDA.

How To File a Complaint of Discrimination

    To file a complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program 
Discrimination Complaint Form, which may be accessed online at http://www.ocio.usda.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012/Complain_combined_6_8_12.pdf, or write a letter signed by you or your authorized 
representative. Send your completed complaint form or letter to USDA by 
mail, fax, or email:
Mail
    U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 
1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-9410.
Fax
    (202) 690-7442.
Email
    program.intake@usda.gov.

    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for 
communication (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.), should contact 
USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

X. Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with section 3507(d) of the Paperwork Reduction Act 
of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), the new information collection 
requirements included in this final rule have been submitted for 
approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
    Title: Poultry Slaughter Inspection.
    Type of Collection: New.
    Abstract: Under this final rule, each official poultry slaughter 
establishment will need to maintain as part of its HACCP plan, 
sanitation SOP, or other prerequisite program, written procedures 
addressing (1) the prevention throughout the entire slaughter and 
dressing operation, of contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric 
pathogens (e.g., Salmonella and Campylobacter) and by fecal material, 
and (2) the prevention of carcasses and parts contaminated by visible 
fecal material from entering the chiller. Each

[[Page 49631]]

establishment operating under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) 
will also be required to maintain, as part of its HACCP system, written 
procedures to prevent carcasses afflicted with septicemia and toxemia 
from entering the chiller. The procedures addressing prevention of 
contamination by enteric pathogens will need to include microbial 
testing. In addition, each establishment operating under NPIS will need 
to maintain records that document that the products resulting from its 
slaughter operations meet the definition of ready-to-cook poultry. Each 
establishment operating under the NPIS will also need to submit on an 
annual basis an attestation to the management member of the local FSIS 
circuit safety committee stating that it maintains a program to monitor 
and document any work-related conditions of establishment workers.
    The requirement that poultry slaughter establishments have written 
procedures in their HACCP plans, sanitation SOPs, or prerequisite 
programs is already covered under an approved information collection, 
Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems 
(OMB control number 0583-0103). Therefore, this requirement of this 
rule creates no new burden on establishments.
    The requirement that poultry slaughter establishments monitor their 
systems through microbial testing and recordkeeping creates a new 
information collection burden. For each sample for which a microbial 
test is conducted, there are two ``responses'' for the establishment: 
one response for the actual collecting of the sample and sending it to 
the laboratory for analysis, and the other for recording the sample 
result. In its initial paperwork burden estimate, FSIS estimated that 
large establishments would test and record microbial results at the two 
prescribed locations (pre- and post-chill), 15 times a day; small 
establishments, 7 times a day; and very small establishments, 3 times a 
day. These estimates were based on the frequency with which 
establishments operating under a Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) 
waiver conduct sampling. Under SIP, FSIS grants establishments a waiver 
of regulations under the condition that the establishment collects and 
analyzes samples for microbial organisms and shares the results with 
FSIS.
    In this final rule, FSIS has revised the regulations to prescribe a 
minimum frequency with which all establishments that slaughter poultry 
will need to conduct testing for microbial organism to monitor their 
process control procedures. FSIS has also revised the testing 
requirements to allow very small and very low volume establishments to 
conduct sampling at the post-chill point in the process only. These 
revisions are substantive changes that have resulted in a reduction in 
burden. Therefore, FSIS has updated its paperwork burden estimates to 
reflect these changes and has submitted the revised information and 
recordkeeping requirement to OMB for review.
    The average burden per response and the annual burden hours are 
explained below and summarized in the charts which follow.
    Estimated Annual Burden: Poultry Slaughter Inspection.
    Recordkeeping:

Estimated Annual Recordkeeping Burden for Modernization of Poultry 
Slaughter Inspection

    Respondents: Official poultry establishments.
    Estimated Number of Respondents: 289.
    Estimated Average Annual Number of Responses (samples) per 
Respondent: Large establishments 4,322.7; small establishments 1,318; 
very small establishments 21.3.
    Estimated Total Annual Responses: 764,594.
    Estimated Total Annual Recordkeeping Burden: 31,858 hours.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Average
                                                                 annual                                 Total
                                                  Estimated    number of      Total       Time per      annual
         Respondents                              number of    responses      annual    response in     burden
                                                 respondents      per       responses      minutes      hours
                                                               respondent
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Large establishments.........  Microbial                 151      4,322.7      652,773          2.5       21,197
                                testing data
                                recordkeeping.
Small establishments.........  Microbial                  84        1,318      110,712          2.5        4,613
                                testing data
                                recordkeeping.
Very small establishments....  Microbial                  54         21.3        1,134          2.5           48
                                testing data
                                recordkeeping.
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Total Recordkeeping        ................          289      2,645.6      764,594          2.5       31,858
     Burden.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Reporting

Estimated Annual Reporting Burden for Poultry Slaughter Inspection

    Respondents for this Rule: Official poultry establishments.
    Estimated Number of Respondents: 289.
    Estimated Average Annual Number of Responses per Respondent: Large 
establishments 4,322.7; small establishments 1,318; very small 
etablishments 21.3.
    Estimated Total Annual Responses: 764,594.
    Estimated Total Annual Reporting Burden on Respondents: 159,339 
hours.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Average
                                                                 annual                                 Total
                                                  Estimated    number of      Total       Time per      annual
         Respondents                              number of    responses      annual     respone in     burden
                                                 respondents      per       responses     minutes       hours
                                                               respondent
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Large establishments.........  Microbial                 151      4,322.7      652,773         12.5      135,986
                                testing.
Small establishments.........  Microbial                  84        1,318      110,712         12.5       23,065
                                testing.
Very small establishments....  Microbial                  54         21.3        1,134           15          288
                                testing.
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 49632]]

 
    Total Reporting Burden...  ................          289      2,645.6      764,594  ...........      159,339
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


             Summary of Burden--Poultry Slaughter Inspection
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total No. respondents...................................             289
Average Annual No. responses per respondent.............         5,291.3
Total annual responses..................................       1,529,188
Average hours per response..............................            .125
Total annual burden hours...............................         191,197
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In this final rule, FSIS is adding a new regulation that creates a 
new information collection burden, in that it requires that poultry 
slaughter establishments operating under the NPIS submit on an annual 
basis an attestation to the management member of the local FSIS circuit 
safety committee stating that it maintains a program to monitor and 
document any work-related conditions of establishment workers. This is 
a new recordkeeping requirement that FSIS has submitted to OMB for 
approval.
    The average burden per response and the annual burden hours are 
explained below and summarized in the charts which follow.
    Estimated Annual Burden: Poultry Slaughter Inspection
    Reporting:

Estimated Annual Reporting Burden for Submitting an Annual Attestation 
on Work-Related to the FSIS Circuit Safety Committee

    Respondents: Official poultry establishments that operate under the 
NPIS.
    Estimated Maximum Number of Potential Respondents: 219.
    Estimated Average Annual Number of Responses per Respondent: Large 
establishments 1; small establishments 1; very small establishments 0.
    Estimated Maximum Total Potential Annual Responses: 219.
    Estimated Total Annual Recordkeeping Burden: 7.27 hours.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Average
                                                                 annual                                 Total
      Maximum potential                           Estimated    number of      Total       Time per    potential
 respondents: establishments                      number of    responses      annual     potential      annual
   operating under the NPIS                       potential       per       potential   response in     burden
                                                 respondents   potential    responses      minutes      hours
                                                               respondent
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Large establishments.........  Attestation on            149            1          149            2         4.97
                                Work-Related
                                Conditions.
Small establishments.........  Attestation on             70            1           70            2          2.3
                                Work-Related
                                Conditions.
Very small establishments....  ................            0            0            0  ...........            0
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Total Reporting Burden...  ................          219            1          219  ...........         7.27
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Copies of this information collection assessment can be obtained 
from Gina Kouba, Paperwork Reduction Act Coordinator, Food Safety and 
Inspection Service, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Room 6065 South 
Building, Washington, DC 20250-3700; (202) 720- 5627.
    Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of 
information is necessary for the proper performance of FSIS's 
functions, including whether the information will have practical 
utility; (b) the accuracy of FSIS's estimate of the burden of the 
proposed collection of information, including the validity of the 
methodology and assumptions used; (c) ways to enhance the quality, 
utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways 
to minimize the burden of the information collection on those who are 
to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, 
electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology.
    Comments on the proposed information collection may be sent to both 
Gina Kouba, Paperwork Reduction Act Coordinator, at the address 
provided above, and the Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, 
Washington, DC 20253. To be most effective, comments should be sent to 
OMB within 60 days of the publication date of this final rule.

XI. 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 final rule, FSIS will announce it 
online through the FSIS Web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/Final_Rules/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, 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 email 
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

[[Page 49633]]

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_&_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 accounts.

List of Subjects

9 CFR Part 381

    Poultry inspection, Poultry products, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

9 CFR Part 500

    Administrative practice and procedure, Meat inspection, Poultry and 
poultry products.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, FSIS is amending 9 CFR 
Chapter III as follows:

PART 381--POULTRY PRODUCTS INSPECTION REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 381 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 138f, 450; 21 U.S.C. 451-470; 7 CFR 2.7, 
2.18, 2.53.


0
2. Amend Sec.  381.36 by adding a new paragraph (f) to read as follows:


Sec.  381.36  Facilities required.

* * * * *
    (f) Facilities for post-mortem inspection under the New Poultry 
Inspection System. The following facilities requirements apply to 
establishments operating under the New Poultry Inspection System and 
are in addition to the requirements for obtaining a grant of 
inspection.
    (1) The following provisions apply to the online carcass inspection 
station:
    (i) On each production line, at a point before the chiller and 
after the establishment has completed all sorting, trimming, and 
reprocessing activities necessary to comply with Sec.  
381.76(b)(6)(ii), at least 4 feet of floor space along the conveyor 
line must be provided for one online carcass inspection station.
    (ii) The conveyor line must be level for the entire length of the 
online carcass inspection station. The vertical distance from the 
bottom of the shackles to the top of the platform (paragraph 
(f)(1)(iii) of this section) must not be less than 60 inches.
    (iii) Each online carcass inspection station must have a platform 
that is slip-resistant and can be safely accessed by the inspector. The 
platform must be designed so that it can be easily and rapidly adjusted 
for a minimum of 14 inches vertically while standing on the platform. 
The platform must be a minimum length of 4 feet and have a minimum 
width of 2 feet. The platform must be designed with a 42-inch high rail 
on the back side and with \1/2\-inch foot bumpers on both sides and 
front to allow safe working conditions. The platform must have a safe 
lift mechanism and be large enough for the inspector to sit on a stool 
and to change stations during breaks or station rotation.
    (iv) Conveyor line stop/start switches must be located within easy 
reach of the online carcass inspector.
    (v) A minimum of 200 foot-candles of shadow-free lighting with a 
minimum color rendering index value of 85 must be provided where the 
birds are inspected to facilitate online carcass inspection.
    (vi) Hand rinsing facilities must be provided for use by and within 
easy reach of the online carcass inspector. The hand rinsing facilities 
must have a continuous flow of water or be capable of being immediately 
activated and deactivated in a hands-free manner, must minimize any 
splash effect, and must otherwise operate in a sanitary manner that 
prevents contamination of carcasses and inspector clothing. The hand 
rinsing facilities must provide water at a temperature between 65 and 
120 degrees Fahrenheit.
    (vii) A separate clipboard holder for holding recording sheets must 
be provided for and within easy reach of the online carcass inspector.
    (viii) Receptacles for condemned carcasses and parts that comply 
with the performance standards in Sec.  416.3(c) of this chapter must 
be provided at each online carcass inspection station.
    (ix) Hangback racks designed to hold at least 10 carcasses must be 
provided and positioned within easy reach of the online carcass 
inspector.
    (x) A buzzer shall be located within easy reach of the online 
carcass inspector to be used by the carcass inspector to alert the 
inspector-in-charge, offline inspectors, or establishment management of 
conditions that require their attention.
    (2) The following provisions apply to pre-chill and post-chill 
offline verification inspection stations:
    (i) One or more offline verification inspection stations must be 
located at the end of the line or lines prior to the chiller. One or 
more offline verification inspection stations must also be located 
after the chiller or chillers. The Agency will determine the total 
number of offline verification inspection stations needed in 
establishments having more than one processing line or more than one 
chiller.
    (ii) Floor space for all offline verification inspection stations 
must consist of a minimum of 3 feet along each conveyor line and after 
each chiller, as applicable, to allow carcasses to be removed for 
evaluation by the verification inspector. The space must be level and 
protected from all traffic and overhead obstructions.
    (iii) At the pre-chill location, the vertical distance from the 
bottom of the shackles to the floor must not be less than 48 inches.
    (iv) At each offline verification inspection station, a table 
designed to be readily cleanable and drainable must be provided for 
offline verification inspectors to conduct offline verification 
activities. At turkey slaughter establishments, the table must be at 
least 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and 3 feet high. At all other poultry 
slaughter establishments, the table must be at least 2 feet wide, 2 
feet deep, and 3 feet high
    (v) A minimum of 200 foot-candles of shadow-free lighting with a 
minimum color rendering index of 85 on the table surface must be 
provided.
    (vi) The establishment must provide a separate clipboard holder for 
holding recording sheets; or alternatively, the establishment may 
provide electronic means for the offline verification inspector to 
record inspection results.
    (vii) Hangback racks designed to hold at least 10 carcasses must be 
provided and positioned within easy reach of the offline verification 
inspector.
    (viii) Hand washing facilities must be provided within easy access 
of all offline verification inspection stations.
    (3) Each young chicken establishment operating under the New 
Poultry Inspection System must provide a location at a point along the 
production line after the carcasses are eviscerated at which an 
inspector may safely and properly inspect for leukosis the first 300 
carcasses of each flock together with associated viscera either 
uniformly trailing or leading, or otherwise identified with the 
corresponding carcass. The leukosis inspection area must provide a 
minimum of 200 foot-candles of shadow-free lighting on the surface 
where the viscera are inspected.
    (4) A trough or other similar drainage facility must extend beneath 
the conveyor at all places where processing operations are conducted 
from the point where the carcass is opened to the point where trimming 
has been performed. The trough must be of sufficient width to preclude 
trimmings, drippage, and debris from accumulating on the floor or 
platforms. The clearance between suspended carcasses and the trough

[[Page 49634]]

must be sufficient to preclude contamination of carcasses by splashing.

0
3. A new subpart H is added to part 381 to read as follows:

Subpart H--Attestation on Work-Related Conditions

Sec.
381.45 Attestation requirements.
381.46 Severability.


Sec.  381.45  Attestation requirements.

    Each establishment that participates in the New Poultry Inspection 
System (NPIS) shall submit on an annual basis an attestation to the 
management member of the local FSIS circuit safety committee stating 
that it maintains a program to monitor and document any work-related 
conditions of establishment workers, and that the program includes the 
following elements:
    (a) Policies to encourage early reporting of symptoms of injuries 
and illnesses, and assurance that it has no policies or programs in 
place that would discourage the reporting of injuries and illnesses.
    (b) Notification to employees of the nature and early symptoms of 
occupational illnesses and injuries, in a manner and language that 
workers can understand, including by posting in a conspicuous place or 
places where notices to employees are customarily posted, a copy of the 
FSIS/OSHA poster encouraging reporting and describing reportable signs 
and symptoms.
    (c) Monitoring on a regular and routine basis of injury and illness 
logs, as well as nurse or medical office logs, workers' compensation 
data, and any other injury or illness information available.


Sec.  381.46  Severability.

    Should a court of competent jurisdiction hold any provision of this 
part 381, subpart H to be invalid, such action shall not affect any 
other provision of this part 381.

0
4. Amend Sec.  381.65 as follows:
0
a. Redesignate paragraphs (e) and (f) as paragraphs (f) and (e) 
respectively.
0
b. Revise newly redesignated paragraph (f).
0
c. Add new paragraphs (g) and (h).
    The revisions and additions read as follows:


Sec.  381.65  Operations and procedures, generally.

* * * * *
    (f) Procedures for controlling visible fecal contamination. 
Official poultry slaughter establishments must develop, implement, and 
maintain written procedures to ensure that poultry carcasses 
contaminated with visible fecal material do not enter the chiller. 
Establishments must incorporate these procedures into their HACCP 
plans, or sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs.
    (g) Procedures for controlling contamination throughout the 
slaughter and dressing operation. Official poultry slaughter 
establishments must develop, implement, and maintain written procedures 
to prevent contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens 
and fecal contamination throughout the entire slaughter and dressing 
operation. Establishments must incorporate these procedures into their 
HACCP plans, or sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs. At a 
minimum, these procedures must include sampling and analysis for 
microbial organisms in accordance with the sampling location and 
frequency requirements in paragraphs (g)(1) and (2) of this section to 
monitor their ability to maintain process control.
    (1) Sampling locations. Establishments, except for very small 
establishments operating under Traditional Inspection or very low 
volume establishments operating under Traditional Inspection must 
collect and analyze samples for microbial organisms at the pre-chill 
and post-chill points in the process. Very small establishments 
operating under Traditional Inspection and very low volume 
establishments operating under Traditional Inspection must collect and 
analyze samples for microbial organisms at the post-chill point in the 
process.
    (i) Very small establishments are establishments with fewer than 10 
employees or annual sales of less than $2.5 million.
    (ii) Very low volume establishments annually slaughter no more than 
440,000 chickens, 60,000 turkeys, 60,000 ducks, 60,000 geese, 60,000 
guineas, or 60,000 squabs.
    (2) Sampling frequency. (i) Establishments, except for very low 
volume establishments as defined in paragraph (g)(1)(ii) of this 
section, must, at a minimum, collect and analyze samples at a frequency 
proportional to the establishment's volume of production at the 
following rates:
    (A) Chickens. Once per 22,000 carcasses, but a minimum of once 
during each week of operation.
    (B) Turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, and squabs. Once per 3,000 
carcasses, but at a minimum once each week of operation.
    (ii) Very low volume establishments as defined in paragraph 
(g)(1)(ii) of this section must collect and analyze samples at least 
once during each week of operation starting June 1 of every year. If, 
after consecutively collecting 13 weekly samples, a very low volume 
establishment can demonstrate that it is effectively maintaining 
process control, it may modify its sampling plan.
    (iii) Establishments must sample at a frequency that is adequate to 
monitor their ability to maintain process control for enteric 
pathogens. Establishments must maintain accurate records of all test 
results and retain these records as provided in paragraph (h) of this 
section.
    (h) Recordkeeping requirements. Official poultry slaughter 
establishments must maintain daily records sufficient to document the 
implementation and monitoring of the procedures required under 
paragraph (g) of this section. Records required by this section may be 
maintained on computers if the establishment implements appropriate 
controls to ensure the integrity of the electronic data. Records 
required by this section must be maintained for at least one year and 
must be accessible to FSIS.

0
5. Amend Sec.  381.66 as follows:
0
a. Revise paragraph (b).
0
b. Remove paragraphs (c)(3) and (4).
0
c. Revise paragraph (e).
    The revisions read as follows:


Sec.  381.66  Temperatures and chilling and freezing procedures.

* * * * *
    (b) Chilling performance standards, except for ratites. (1)(i) Each 
official poultry slaughter establishment must ensure that all poultry 
carcasses, parts, and giblets are chilled immediately after slaughter 
operations so that there is no outgrowth of pathogens, unless such 
poultry is to be frozen or cooked immediately at the official 
establishment.
    (ii) Previously chilled poultry carcasses and major portions must 
be kept chilled so that there is no outgrowth of the pathogens, unless 
such poultry is to be packed and frozen immediately at the official 
establishment.
    (2) After product has been chilled, the establishment must prevent 
the outgrowth of pathogens on the product as long as the product 
remains at the establishment.
    (3) The establishment must develop, implement, and maintain written 
procedures for chilling that address, at a minimum, the potential for 
pathogen outgrowth, the conditions affecting carcass chilling, and when 
its chilling process is completed. The establishment must incorporate 
these procedures into

[[Page 49635]]

its HACCP plan, or sanitation SOP, or other prerequisite program.
* * * * *
    (e) Air chilling. Air chilling is the method of chilling raw 
poultry carcasses and parts predominately with air. An antimicrobial 
intervention may be applied with water at the beginning of the chilling 
process, provided that its use does not result in any net pick-up of 
water or moisture during the chilling process. The initial 
antimicrobial intervention may result in some temperature reduction of 
the product, provided that the majority of temperature removal is 
accomplished exclusively by chilled air.
* * * * *

0
6. Add Sec.  381.69 to subpart I to read as follows:


Sec.  381.69  Maximum line speed rates under the New Poultry Inspection 
System.

    (a) The maximum line speed for young chicken slaughter 
establishments that operate under the New Poultry Inspection System is 
140 birds per minute.
    (b) The maximum line speed for turkey slaughter establishments that 
operate under the New Poultry Inspection System is 55 birds per minute.
    (c) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, 
establishments that operate under the New Poultry Inspection System 
must reduce their line speed as directed by inspectors-in-charge. 
Inspectors-in-charge are authorized to direct establishments to operate 
at a reduced line speed when in their judgment a carcass-by-carcass 
inspection cannot be adequately performed within the time available due 
to the manner in which the birds are presented to the online carcass 
inspector, the health conditions of a particular flock, or factors that 
may indicate a loss of process control.
    (d) Establishments operating under the line speed limits authorized 
in this section shall comply with all other applicable requirements of 
the laws, including, but not limited to, 29 U.S.C. 654(a).

0
7. Amend Sec.  381.76 as follows:
0
a. Revise the section heading.
0
b. Revise paragraphs (a), (b)(1) introductory text, (b)(1)(iv), and 
(b)(2).
0
c. Add paragraphs (b)(1)(v) and (b)(6).
    The revisions read as follows:


Sec.  381.76  Post-mortem inspection under Traditional Inspection, the 
Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), the New Line Speed (NELS) 
Inspection System, the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), the New 
Turkey Inspection System (NTI), and Ratite Inspection.

    (a) A post-mortem inspection shall be made on a bird-by-bird basis 
on all poultry eviscerated in every official establishment. Each 
carcass, or all parts comprising such carcass, must be examined by an 
inspector, except for parts that are not needed for inspection purposes 
and are not intended for human food and are condemned. Each carcass 
eviscerated shall be prepared as ready-to-cook poultry.
    (b)(1) There are six systems of post-mortem inspection: the New 
Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), which may be used for young chickens 
and turkeys; the Streamlined Inspection System (SIS) and the New Line 
Speed Inspection System (NELS), both of which may be used only for 
broilers and cornish game hens; the New Turkey Inspection (NTI) System, 
which may be used only for turkeys; Traditional Inspection, which may 
be used for all poultry, except for ratites; and Ratite Inspection.
* * * * *
    (iv) The NPIS may be used for young chickens and turkeys if the 
official establishment requests to use it and meets or agrees to meet 
the requirements of paragraph (b)(6) of this section and the 
Administrator approves the establishment's request. The Administrator 
may permit establishments that slaughter classes of poultry other than 
young chickens and turkeys to operate under the New Poultry Inspection 
System under a waiver from the provisions of the regulations as 
provided in Sec.  381.3(b).
    (v) Traditional Inspection shall be used for turkeys when neither 
the NTI System nor the NPIS is used. For other classes of poultry, 
Traditional Inspection shall be used when SIS, NELS, and the NPIS are 
not used.
    (2) Official establishments that operate under Traditional 
Inspection, SIS, NELS, NTI, or Ratite Inspection must meet the 
following requirements:
    (i) No viscera or any part thereof may be removed from any poultry 
processed in any official establishment, except at the time of post-
mortem inspection, unless its identity with the rest of the carcass is 
maintained in a manner satisfactory to the inspector until such 
inspection is made.
    (ii) Each carcass to be eviscerated must be opened so as to expose 
the organs and the body cavity for proper examination by the inspector.
    (iii) If a carcass is frozen, it must be thoroughly thawed before 
being opened for examination by an inspector.
* * * * *
    (6) The following requirements are applicable to the NPIS:
    (i) Facilities. The establishment must comply with the facilities 
requirements in Sec.  381.36(f).
    (ii) Carcass sorting and disposition. (A) The establishment must 
conduct carcass with associated viscera sorting activities, dispose of 
carcasses and parts exhibiting condemnable conditions, and conduct 
appropriate trimming and reprocessing activities before carcasses are 
presented to the online carcass inspector.
    (B) Any carcasses removed from the line for reprocessing activities 
or salvage must be returned to the line before the online carcass 
inspection station. The establishment must include in its written HACCP 
plan, or sanitation SOP, or other prerequisite program a process by 
which parts, other than parts identified as ``major portions'' as 
defined in Sec.  381.170(b)(22), are available for inspection offline 
after reprocessing or salvage.
    (C) The establishment must develop, implement, and maintain written 
procedures to ensure that poultry carcasses contaminated with 
septicemic and toxemic conditions do not enter the chiller. The 
establishment must incorporate these procedures into its HACCP plan, or 
sanitation SOP, or other prerequisite program. These procedures must 
cover, at a minimum, establishment sorting activities required under 
paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section.
    (D) The establishment must maintain records to document that the 
products resulting from its slaughter operation meet the definition of 
ready-to-cook poultry in Sec.  381.1. These records are subject to 
review and evaluation by FSIS personnel.
    (iii) Presentation for online carcass inspection. To ensure the 
online carcass inspector may properly inspect every carcass, the 
establishment must present carcasses as follows:
    (A) Each carcass, except carcasses and parts identified as ``major 
portions'' under 9 CFR 381.179(b)(22), must be held by a single 
shackle;
    (B) Both hocks of each carcass must be held by the shackle;
    (C) The back side of the carcass must be faced toward the 
inspector;
    (D) There must be minimal carcass swinging motion;
    (E) The establishment must ensure that it can sufficiently identify 
viscera and parts corresponding with each carcass inspected by the 
online carcass

[[Page 49636]]

inspector so that if the carcass inspector condemns a carcass all 
corresponding viscera and parts are also condemned.
    (iv) Inspection for Avian Visceral Leukosis. (A) Establishments 
that slaughter young chickens must notify the inspector-in-charge prior 
to the slaughter of each new flock to allow the inspection of viscera 
as provided in Sec.  381.36(f)(3).
    (B) If there is evidence that a flock may be affected by avian 
visceral leukosis, the inspector-in-charge is authorized to adjust 
inspection procedures as needed to ensure adequate inspection of each 
carcass and viscera for that condition. The inspector-in-charge is also 
authorized to require the establishment to adjust its processing 
operations as needed to accommodate the adjusted inspection procedures.

0
9. Section 381.91 is amended by revising paragraph (b) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  381.91  Contamination.

* * * * *
    (b) Any carcass of poultry accidentally contaminated during 
slaughter with digestive tract contents need not be condemned if 
promptly reprocessed under the supervision of an inspector and 
thereafter found not to be adulterated. Contaminated surfaces that are 
cut must be removed only by trimming. Contaminated inner surfaces that 
are not cut may be cleaned by trimming alone or may be re-processed as 
provided in subparagraph (b)(1) or (2) of this section.
    (1) Online reprocessing. Poultry carcasses accidentally 
contaminated with digestive tract contents may be cleaned by applying 
an online reprocessing antimicrobial intervention to all carcasses 
after evisceration and before the carcasses enter the chiller if the 
parameters for use of the antimicrobial intervention system have been 
approved by the Administrator. Establishments must incorporate 
procedures for the use of any online reprocessing antimicrobial 
intervention system into their HACCP plans, or sanitation SOPs, or 
other prerequisite programs.
    (2) Offline reprocessing. Contaminated inner surfaces that are not 
cut may be cleaned at an approved reprocessing station away from the 
main processing line by any method that will remove the contamination, 
such as vacuuming, washing, and trimming, singly or in combination. All 
visible specks of contamination must be removed, and if the inner 
surfaces are reprocessed other than solely by trimming, all surfaces of 
the carcass must be treated with chlorinated water containing 20 ppm to 
50 ppm available chlorine or another approved antimicrobial substance 
in accordance with the parameters approved by the Administrator. 
Establishments must incorporate procedures for the use of any offline 
reprocessing into their HACCP plans, or sanitation SOPs, or other 
prerequisite programs.

0
10. Section 381.94 is amended by revising the section heading and 
paragraph (a) and removing and reserving paragraph (b) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  381.94  Contamination with microorganisms; process control 
verification criteria and testing; pathogen reduction standards for 
establishments that slaughter ratites.

    (a) Criteria for verifying process control; E. coli testing. (1) 
Each official establishment that slaughters ratites shall test for 
Escherichia coli Biotype I (E. coli). Establishments that slaughter 
ratites and livestock, shall test the type of ratites or livestock 
slaughtered in the greatest number. The establishment shall:
    (i) Collect samples in accordance with the sampling techniques, 
methodology, and frequency requirements in paragraph (a)(2) of this 
section;
    (ii) Obtain analytic results in accordance with paragraph (a)(3) of 
this section; and
    (iii) Maintain records of such analytic results in accordance with 
paragraph (a)(4) of this section.
    (2) Sampling requirements. (i) Written procedures. Each 
establishment that slaughters ratites shall prepare written specimen 
collection procedures which shall identify employees designated to 
collect samples, and shall address location(s) of sampling, how 
sampling randomness is achieved, and handling of the sample to ensure 
sample integrity. The written procedure shall be made available to FSIS 
upon request.
    (ii) Sample collection. The establishment must collect samples from 
whole ratites at the end of the chilling process. Samples from ratites 
may be collected by sponging the carcass on the back and thigh or 
samples can be collected by rinsing the whole carcass in an amount of 
buffer appropriate for that type of bird.
    (iii) Sampling frequency. Establishments that slaughter ratites, 
except very low volume ratite establishments as defined in paragraph 
(a)(2)(v) of this section, must take samples at a frequency 
proportional to the establishment's volume of production at the 
following rate: 1 sample per 3,000 carcasses, but at a minimum one 
sample each week of operation.
    (iv) Sampling frequency alternatives. An establishment operating 
under a validated HACCP plan in accordance with Sec.  417.2(b) of this 
chapter may substitute an alternative frequency for the frequency of 
sampling required under paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section if,
    (A) The alternative is an integral part of the establishment's 
verification procedures for its HACCP plan and,
    (B) FSIS does not determine, and notify the establishment in 
writing, that the alternative frequency is inadequate to verify the 
effectiveness of the establishment's processing controls.
    (v) Sampling in very low volume ratite establishments. (A) Very low 
volume ratite establishments annually slaughter no more than 6,000 
ratites. Very low volume ratite establishments that slaughter ratites 
in the largest number must collect at least one sample during each week 
of operation after June 1 of each year, and continue sampling at a 
minimum of once each week the establishment operates until June of the 
following year or until 13 samples have been collected, whichever comes 
first.
    (B) Upon the establishment's meeting the requirements of paragraph 
(a)(2)(v)(A) of this section, weekly sampling and testing is optional, 
unless changes are made in establishment facilities, equipment, 
personnel or procedures that may affect the adequacy of existing 
process control measures, as determined by the establishment or by 
FSIS. FSIS determinations that changes have been made requiring 
resumption of weekly testing shall be provided to the establishment in 
writing.
    (3) Analysis of samples. Laboratories may use any quantitative 
method for analysis of E. coli that is approved as an AOAC Official 
Method of the AOAC International (formerly the Association of Official 
Analytical Chemists) or approved and published by a scientific body and 
based on the results of a collaborative trial conducted in accordance 
with an internationally recognized protocol on collaborative trials and 
compared against the three tube Most Probable Number (MPN) method and 
agreeing with the 95 percent upper and lower confidence limit of the 
appropriate MPN index.
    (4) Recording of test results. The establishment shall maintain 
accurate records of all test results, in terms of colony forming units 
(CFU)/ml of rinse fluid. Results shall be recorded onto a process 
control chart or table showing at least the most recent 13 test 
results. Records shall be retained at the establishment for a period of 
12 months

[[Page 49637]]

and shall be made available to FSIS upon request.
    (5) Establishments shall evaluate E. coli test results using 
statistical process control techniques.
    (6) Failure to meet criteria. Test results that do not meet the 
criteria described in paragraph (a)(5) of this section are an 
indication that the establishment may not be maintaining process 
controls sufficient to prevent fecal contamination. FSIS shall take 
further action as appropriate to ensure that all applicable provisions 
of the law are being met.
    (7) Failure to test and record. Inspection will be suspended in 
accordance with rules of practice that will be adopted for such 
proceeding, upon a finding by FSIS that one or more provisions of 
paragraphs (a) (1) through (4) of this section have not been complied 
with and written notice of same has been provided to the establishment.
* * * * *

0
11. Section 381.129 is amended by adding a new paragraph (b)(6)(v) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  381.129  False or misleading labeling or containers.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (6) * * *
    (v) Ready-to-cook chicken may bear the claim ``air chilled'' or 
``air chilling'' on its label only if the product was chilled under a 
process that meets the definition of air chilling in Sec.  381.66(e).
* * * * *

 PART 500--RULES OF PRACTICE

0
12. The authority citation for part 500 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  21 U.S.C. 451-470, 601-695; 7 U.S.C. 450, 1901-1906; 
7 CFR 2.18, 2.53.


Sec.  500.6  [Amended]

0
13. Section 500.6 is amended by removing and reserving paragraph (f).

    Done at Washington, DC, on: July 31, 2014.
Alfred V. Almanza,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-18526 Filed 8-20-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-DM-P