Assessment of the Potential Change in Human Risk of Salmonella Illnesses Associated with Modernizing Inspection of Market Hog Slaughter Establishments
FSIS is the food safety agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). With its mission of promoting public health, FSIS has legal authority to regulate the slaughter and production processes of meat and related industries. FSIS is currently considering proposals to improve public health through the design of a modernized approach to swine inspection known as the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS). FSIS conducted this public health risk assessment to inform proposals for altering market hog slaughter establishment inspection under a NSIS.
Currently, FSIS Inspection Program Personnel (IPP, “inspectors”) in market hog establishments perform a variety of online and offline duties. Many of the online inspection tasks currently carried out by FSIS inspectors are related to food quality and do not align with the FSIS mission of food safety. This risk assessment aims to estimate any potential reduction in illness or risks, measured as change in Salmonella prevalence, from modifying the allocation of FSIS inspectors in market hog slaughter establishments. To do so, this report considers multiple alternative scenarios that provide FSIS inspection personnel more time and flexibility to perform offline inspection tasks.
Consistent with FSIS’ focus on Salmonella outlined in the Agency’s1996 implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point inspection system. That focus was due to the following key characteristics of Salmonella: “. . . (1) it is the most common bacterial cause of foodborne illness; (2) FSIS baseline data show that Salmonella colonizes a variety of mammals and birds, and occurs at frequencies which permit changes to be detected and monitored; (3) current methodologies can recover Salmonella from a variety of meat and poultry products; and (4) intervention strategies aimed at reducing fecal contamination and other sources of Salmonella on raw product should be effective against other pathogens” (FSIS, 1996). In addition, FSIS’ exploratory sample recently confirmed that Salmonella is much more frequently detected in pork products (16.7%) than methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (4.5%)1 .
In October 1999, FSIS initiated the voluntary HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) in five market hog slaughter establishments that volunteered to participate in the project. With HIMP implementation, participating establishments streamlined their slaughter process so their personnel are responsible for online examining and sorting, decreasing the number of FSIS inspectors needed to conduct many of those activities (FSIS, 2011a). This allowed for FSIS inspector reassignment to offline duties including humane handling and sanitation inspection procedures, and food safety-related tasks. HIMP establishments have demonstrated the capacity for FSIS inspectors to conduct up to 50% more offline procedures than in non-HIMP establishments. One policy option FSIS is considering is implementing a voluntary inspection system, similar to HIMP, for market hog establishments under the NSIS. This change would relocate some FSIS inspectors from online to offline duties, performing public health-related and other assignments while still verifying that establishments consistently maintain sanitary operations.