The poultry slaughter modernization rule is still under review at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) prior to being sent for review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to Rachel Edelstein, assistant administrator for the FSIS’s Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD).
FSIS has received over 150,000 comment letters along with a petition with more than 150,000 signatures and form letters. Over 2,000 individual comments from private citizens and FSIS inspectors have also been received. Furthermore, over 120 separate comment letters from trade associations representing the poultry industry members, consumer advocacy organizations, labor unions, public health organizations and others have been received.
Speaking at the 2014 Poultry Processor Workshop, Edelstein said the proposed Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule could be sent to OMB as soon as the departmental review is completed and FSIS and OMB have reached an agreement about its submission.
When asked if there is certainty that the proposed rule would move and be implemented, she told listeners that there would be more certainty once the rule moves to OMB.
The final rule will include cost/benefit analysis and risk assessment, Edelstein said.
Much of the opposition to the rule from labor and advocacy groups centers on objections to what the groups call “privatization” of poultry inspection by replacing trained USDA inspectors with poultry slaughter establishment employees.
Data collected by FSIS at HIMP pilot plants shows lower rates of septicemic/toxemic carcasses and visible fecal contamination. There are also lower rates of salmonella-positive carcasses.
Opponents of the rule also object to the faster line speeds possible under the rule which they claim would adversely affect worker safety.
Edelstein said worker safety issues can be addressed in standards to protect workers.
Proposed changes for all poultry processing establishments would include ones affecting on-line reprocessing and time and temperature requirements.
Changes involving on-line reprocessing would include:
- Permitting the use of on-line reprocessing and use of antimicrobial agents in addition to chlorine for off-line reprocessing
- Establishments must incorporate reprocessing into HACCP systems.
- Establishments would be permitted to use any approved safe and suitable antimicrobial agents under the specific conditions for which they have been approved.
Proposed changes involving time and temperature include:
- Remove prescriptive time and temperature requirements
- Establishments would be required to develop, implement and maintain procedures that control the levels and prevent the multiplication of spoilage organisms and pathogenic bacteria after evisceration.
- Establishments must incorporate procedures into their HACCP systems.
FSIS has justified the proposed rule saying existing inspection systems require inspectors to spend more time conducting sorting activities for quality-related defects than in verifying food safety-related process controls and effectiveness of HACCP systems.
The proposed rule would also create incentives for poultry slaughter establishments to improve the food safety of their processing methods.
The Poultry Processor Workshop is sponsored by U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.