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).
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