Processing Inspectors' Calculations Handbook
The mission of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is to assure that meat, meat food,
poultry, and poultry food products distributed in interstate commerce are wholesome, not
adulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and packaged. FSIS enforces the Federal Meat
Inspection Act (FMIA), the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), and the regulations
implementing these laws. Documents such as the FSIS Directives, FSIS Notices, and the Meat
and Poultry Inspection (MPI) Manual provide inspection personnel with specific instructions and
policies to help them enforce the laws and regulations.
Whether meat and poultry products are in compliance with the laws and regulations is often
determined by how the products are formulated and processed. Careful attention to the kind and
amount of ingredients, their conditions of use, and the standards of product identity and
composition are necessary to assure compliance.
The meat and poultry inspection regulations provide specific information on the permitted
amounts and uses of various substances that are allowed to be used in meat and poultry products.
These substances must not be used in a manner that would deceive the consumer by concealing
spoilage or inferiority, or by causing the products to appear of a different size, weight, or quality
than they actually are.
The regulations and policy memorandums also prescribe definitions and standards of identity, or
composition, for certain meat and poultry products. Standards of identity set specific
requirements for a product's make-up. For instance, these standards may specify the kind and
amount of meat or poultry, the maximum amount of non-meat and non-poultry ingredients, and
any other ingredients allowed, or expected, in the final product. Meat and poultry product
standards are established to assure that consumer expectations are met for a product that is
labeled with a certain name. Additional policies have been established to guide inspection
personnel in determining whether products are being prepared in accordance with the laws and
FSIS inspectors carry out monitoring activities, including checks on product preparation, to
assure that official establishments are maintaining control of their processes. Among the
monitoring activities are food ingredient calculations, which are intended to help ensure that meat
and poultry products are not adulterated or misbranded. From time to time, questions have been
raised, and criticisms voiced, about the accuracy, reliability, and consistency of FSIS calculation
methods. In some cases, the questions and criticisms--by field personnel, label reviewers,
headquarters staff, and industry personnel--have resulted from the fact that different terminology
was used in the regulations that were written and promulgated at different times. Of course, the
meat and poultry industry has changed over the years, and the regulations have been updated to
accommodate new products and processes. But whatever the reason for the inconsistencies, if
they appear to impair the Agency's ability to administer the meat and poultry inspection program
nationally in a uniform and equitable way, they must be reduced, explained, or eliminated.
Previous editions of the Processing Inspectors' Calculations Handbook have amounted to little
more than grab bags of sample calculations, formulae, and definitions to help inspectors of
processed foods in their work. This new edition is more thematic and has a threefold purpose.
First, it is an expanded collection of sample calculation methods. Second, it identifies in a single
document the various regulatory limitations on the use of restricted ingredients (e.g., cure agents,
cure accelerators, binders and extenders, phosphates, antioxidants, and flavorings) in meat and
poultry products, and illustrates the calculation method or methods for each specific ingredient.
Third, it standardizes the interpretation of the regulations for calculation purposes and establishes
consistent calculation methods for inspection and establishment personnel.
While the Handbook may refer to or reiterate Agency policy, it is not intended to replace it. The
Handbook is intended primarily as a reference or aid to learning how to perform various
calculations. It should also help provide insight into the reason why a given policy is needed and
its relative importance in a science-based food safety program.
The Handbook is divided into chapters which cover specific subjects and calculation types.
Several chapters have been broken down into subject matter sections that have an introduction, a
formula (if applicable) and at least one procedure table. The procedure table contains the steps
to be taken in performing the calculations presented in that section. In some sections, comments
have been provided to further clarify the interpretation of the pertinent regulation or policy.