Thursday, September 5, 2013

Government Accountability Office Releases Report on USDA Poultry Inspection Modernization

In August, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report on food safety and the impact of new slaughter inspection procedures for poultry and hog inspections introduced in USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) pilot projects. The GAO had three objectives: (1) to determine the extent to which USDA has evaluated their pilot projects, (2) to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the pilot projects based on reviews by stakeholders, and (3) to determine the extent to which USDA disclosed any limitations in sources it relied upon to develop its proposed rule for the modernization of poultry slaughter inspections.

The USDA pilot projects were designed to take a new approach to slaughter inspections by initiating a risk-based, preventative, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) approach. The new procedures would eliminate FSIS inspectors from slaughter lines in order to free the inspectors to perform additional food safety and quality checks in high risk areas of the plant and place responsibility on industry to perform HACCP analysis.  The pilot projects, which were negotiated and started at twenty young chicken plants, five young turkey plants, and five young hog plants in 1998, are known as the HACCP-based Inspection Modules Projects (HIMP).

The USDA proposed rule for optional new poultry inspections is based on the pilot projects with some modifications. The GAO concludes that the proposed rule needs changes before finalization because USDA/FSIS has not thoroughly evaluated the three pilot projects. It states that the FSIS data analysis has limitations because the data was not designed to be comparable due to the age of the data and because the data was not compared uniformly among different plants, and data from the hog plants has not been evaluated, among other named concerns. The GAO recommends that the USDA clearly disclose to the public limitations in the information the agency relied on for rulemaking and to collect and analyze the information collected for young hogs to determine whether the pilot project is meeting its purpose. The USDA concurred with the GAO recommendations.

Please visit the GAO webpage for the full report.

Written by Sarah L. Doyle - Research Assistant
The Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
September 5, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment