USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service on Thursday unveiled its final Poultry Inspection Modernization Plan, which includes efforts to improve poultry worker safety and better control Salmonella and Campylobacter.
The plan also includes the New Poultry Inspection System, which USDA says positions food safety inspectors throughout poultry facilities in a smarter way. It replaces the previous poultry inspection model, which dates back to 1957.
According to the new rules, soon to be published in the Federal Register, FSIS will now require that all poultry companies take measures to prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination, rather than addressing contamination after it occurs.
Poultry facilities also will be required to perform their own microbiological testing at two points in their production process to show that they are controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter. These requirements are in addition to FSIS' own testing, which the agency will continue to perform.
The NPIS, in which poultry companies must sort their own product for quality defects before presenting it to FSIS inspectors, is optional. This system allows for FSIS inspectors to focus less on routine quality assurance tasks that have little relationship to preventing pathogens like Salmonella and instead focus more on strategies that are proven to strengthen food safety, USDA says.
Under the plan, more inspectors will now be available to more frequently remove birds from the evisceration line for close food safety examinations, take samples for testing, check plant sanitation, verify compliance with food safety plans, observe live birds for signs of disease or mistreatment, and ensuring plants are meeting all applicable regulations.
The proposal was first published on January 27, 2012, and USDA says the modernization effort has been significantly informed by the feedback FSIS received from the public, as well as from interagency partners such as the Department of Labor.
Specifically, USDA received numerous comments on the proposed rule related to worker safety, and it has partnered with the federal agencies responsible for worker safety to address those concerns.
In response to public comment, the maximum line speeds for plants that newly adopt the NPIS have remained capped at 140 birds per minute, consistent with the maximum speed under existing inspection programs.
Additionally, all companies operating under the NPIS must maintain a program to encourage the early reporting of work-related injuries and illnesses, and FSIS employees will receive new instructions on how to report workplace hazards that may affect plant workers, including access to a confidential 1-800 number to report concerns directly to OSHA.
In response to the plan, National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said his group looks forward to "reviewing the contents of the final rule and working with the department and our members on proper implementation…"
FSIS estimates that the NPIS will prevent nearly 5,000 Salmonella and Campylobacter foodborne illnesses each year.
News source: USDA