Constituent Update - November 12, 2021
Time-Limited Trial for NSIS Establishments
A court order issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota vacated the part of the USDA final rule eliminating line speed limits for New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) establishments. As a result, all NSIS establishments are currently required to operate at line speeds that do not exceed 1,106 head per hour (hph). FSIS, in collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has developed a “time-limited trial” that will enable establishments to experiment with ergonomics, automation, and crewing to create custom work environments that will protect food and worker safety while increasing productivity. NSIS establishments may apply to participate in a time-limited trial. During the trial, participating establishments will be permitted to operate at an increased line speed for a period of up to one year during which time they will collect data that measures the impact of line speed on workers.
To participate in a time-limited trial, an NSIS establishment must implement worker safety measures included in an agreement with the workers’ union or worker safety committee that represents their employees.
All establishments currently participating in NSIS have received a letter with more details about the trial. NSIS establishments interested in applying for a time-limited trial can submit their request through askFSIS.
FSIS Posts Livestock Humane Handling Inspection Report
FSIS has posted a report with livestock humane handling inspection data for FY2021. The report represents a yearly snapshot of humane handling activities at federally inspected establishments as recorded in the Public Health Information System (PHIS) and Data Warehouse as of the report creation date.
The report includes:
- The number of humane handling verification procedures performed
- The number of administrative enforcement actions taken
- Time spent on Humane Handling Activities Tracking System (HATS) activities
- Comparisons of these measurements by plant size and FSIS district
The report is available here on the FSIS website and contains humane handling information from all four quarters of FY2021. Subsequent quarterly postings will occur in the month after the quarter end.
The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that the handling and slaughtering of livestock be carried out only by humane methods. Inspection Program Personnel and Public Health Veterinarians perform humane handling tasks, issue noncompliance records, and take enforcement actions when appropriate. When conducting humane handling tasks, HATS is used to record the number of hours spent observing and verifying the humane treatment of livestock.
Additional information about humane handling can be found on the FSIS website.
USDA Extends Deadline for Equity Commission Membership Nominations
USDA announced it will establish an Equity Commission and is requesting nominations for membership on the Equity Commission Advisory Committee and Equity Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture.
USDA is soliciting nominations to consider membership on both the Equity Commission and the Subcommittee on Agriculture. Both seek to reflect a diversity in demographics, regions of the country, background, and in experience and expertise. The nomination application period for individuals who wish to serve and/or submit nominations to recommend potential candidates for the Equity Commission and/or Subcommittee on Agriculture has been extended until November 30, 2021.
FSIS to Post Updated Dataset on Import Refusals
On November 15, 2021, FSIS will update the publicly posted dataset on import refusals for products that it regulates. Federal law requires every commercial shipment of imported meat, poultry, and egg products to be re-inspected prior to product entering U.S. commerce. FSIS re-inspects each shipment to verify labeling, proper certification, general condition, and any signs of tampering and to identify product adulterated by transportation damage. FSIS also performs additional activities on a random and/or for-cause basis, such as physical product examination and laboratory sampling for pathogens and chemical residues.
Any product that does not meet FSIS requirements is refused entry, and the importer has up to 45 days (30 days for egg products) to have the product destroyed for use as human food, re-exported/returned to the foreign country, converted to animal food, or brought into compliance with FSIS requirements, if applicable (e.g., relabeled, remarked, or issued a replacement certificate).
This dataset is updated around the 15th of each month and contains each shipment with product that was refused entry. To access these datasets or view more information about them, please visit the Import and Export Data page.
Reminder: FSIS Seeks Comments on the Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products Derived from Animal Cells
On September 2, 2021, FSIS announced an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit comments and information regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products made using cultured cells derived from animals under FSIS jurisdiction. FSIS will use these comments to inform future regulatory requirements for the labeling of such food products.
Having received several stakeholder requests to extend to extend the comment period, the agency has decided to extend the comment period by an additional 30 days. The comment period will now end on December 2, 2021.
This extension should provide interested stakeholders sufficient time to submit comments and information regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products comprised of or containing cultured cells derived from amenable livestock and poultry. The public will also have an additional opportunity to comment on these issues during future rulemaking.
Reminder: Application Period Open for Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program
On October 6, 2021, USDA announced a Request for Applications (RFA) for the new Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant program.
Approximately $650 million in funding is available for the PRS grants, which are funded by the Pandemic Assistance provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The PRS Grant program will assist small businesses in certain commodity areas, including specialty crop producers, shellfish farming, finfish farming, aquaculture, and apiculture; specialty crop, meat, and other processors; distributors; and farmers markets. Small businesses and nonprofits in eligible industries can apply for a grant to cover COVID-related expenses, such as workplace safety measures (e.g., personal protective equipment, retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety, shifting to online sales platforms, transportation, worker housing, and medical costs). The minimum funding request is $1,500 and the maximum funding request is $20,000.
Applications must be submitted electronically through the PRS Grant Portal by 11:59 pm ET on November 22, 2021. The portal also provides more details on eligibility and the application process. Eligible entities are required to obtain a free DUNS Number here before applying for this program. For more information, interested parties can also reach out to the PRS help desk, Monday-Friday, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm ET at (301) 238-5550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for Faster Label Approval Process
Labels are currently taking about 5-7 business days to evaluate.
TIP: When FSIS stamps a label application “APPROVED AS MODIFIED” establishments must modify labels as instructed prior to use. Establishments are not required to resubmit the label to FSIS once they make the noted modifications.
When establishments submit a label application to FSIS for approval, the label is either approved as submitted, approved with modifications, or returned to the establishment for additional information. When a label is approved with modifications made by FSIS, the label is referred to as “sketch modified” and can only be used to make a final label after all the modifications noted in the application are made to the original label. If the necessary modifications are not made to the label, the label approval is not valid.
“Sketch modified” labels are clearly identified in the Label Submission and Approval System (LSAS) in the “Label Application Adjudication Information” section of the Summary. In addition, the actual label application, FSIS Form 7234-1, will bear the statement “APPROVED AS MODIFIED” in red. The necessary modifications will be noted in Box 14 of FSIS Form 7234-1, in the “Conditions Applying to Use of Label” section of the Summary, and/or as modifications to the label as submitted.
Establishments are not required to resubmit the modified labels because the labels are already approved once the modifications are made. If the establishment does not understand a specific modification or does not agree with a modification, it should contact the staff officer that approved the label for clarification or submit a question through askFSIS.
FSIS will continue to provide updates regarding label turnaround time and suggestions to streamline label submissions in the Constituent Update.