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News Releases
USDA Announces Directive to Improve Humane Handling Enforcement
Measures to Ensure Consistent Treatment of Livestock
Congressional and Public Affairs
Bill Bagley
(202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today issued a directive with new instructions to its inspectors that will better ensure the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock presented for processing at FSIS-inspected facilities. FSIS will train its personnel to ensure they are prepared to carry out these new instructions.

"USDA is deeply committed to ensuring the humane treatment of livestock at federally-inspected establishments," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "We are honoring that commitment with clear guidance and better training for our inspection program personnel."

This directive provides new instructions for inspection program personnel to ensure that treatment of livestock during handling and slaughter minimizes the animal's amount of excitement, pain, injury or discomfort. Notably, this directive includes a definition for "egregious inhumane treatment". Under this definition, an egregious situation is any act or condition that results in severe harm to animals, which includes the excessive beating or prodding of disabled livestock, stunning animals and allowing them to regain consciousness, or any treatment causing unnecessary pain and suffering.

During the past two years, FSIS has implemented a number of measures to strengthen humane handling enforcement. On Dec. 22, 2010, FSIS issued new instructions to its inspectors to condemn and promptly euthanize all non-ambulatory mature cattle. On March 14, 2009, the USDA issued a final rule to amend Federal meat inspection regulations to require a complete ban on the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle for use in human food. FSIS also created 24 new humane handling enforcement positions, including 23 in-plant personnel and a headquarters-based Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator.

FSIS has announced a variety of new measures to safeguard the public from foodborne illnesses over the past two years in concert with the Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) created by President Obama in 2009. The FSWG developed three core principles to help guide food safety in the United States: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery. Since that time, USDA has:
  • Announced implementation of revised and new performance standards which require establishments slaughtering chicken and turkey to make continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. USDA expects the new standards to prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses.
  • Proposed a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry called "test and hold" that, once enacted, will significantly reduce the amount of unsafe food reaching consumers.
  • Launched the Mobile Ask Karen app ( m.AskKaren.gov on your phone's mobile browser), a Web-based smartphone application that brings accessible food safety information to consumers in a new way-via their smartphones. Users can utilize this app at the grocery store, barbecue grill, and kitchen stovetop.
  • Proposed a new rule to simplify labeling language for raw meat and poultry products that include injections, marinades, or have otherwise incorporated added solutions which may not be visible to the consumer.
  • Launched the Public Health Information System, a modern repository for key data about public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates across the country.
  • And started an initiative to cut down E. coli contamination including stepped-up meat facility inspections to involve greater use of sampling to monitor the products going into ground beef, among others.

In addition, in late June, USDA joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to debut Food Safe Families, the first joint public service campaign to help families prevent foodborne illnesses in the home. This campaign reminds Americans to clean kitchen surfaces, utensils and hands while preparing food; separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards; cook foods to the correct temperatures; and, chill raw and prepared foods promptly.

For more information on Directive 6900.2, which will better ensure the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock presented for processing at FSIS-inspected facilities, contact FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development at (202) 205-0495.

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Last Modified Jun 04, 2013