USDA’s poultry slaughter inspection rule becomes effective

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

There is still debate around the NPIS rule
There is still debate around the NPIS rule

Related tags: Chicken, Food safety and inspection service

The New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) rule from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) becomes effective from today (October 20).

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will require poultry companies take measures to prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter, rather than addressing the problem after it occurs.

FSIS said the poultry inspection rule will help tackle pathogen reduction, improve the effectiveness of poultry slaughter inspection and make better use of its resources and simplify regulation.

NPIS requires that personnel sort carcasses and remove unacceptable ones and parts before the birds are presented to the FSIS carcass inspector at the end of the line.

It shifts agency resources so there are two inspectors assigned to each line, one to conduct more off-line inspection activities that are more effective in ensuring food safety and one on-line inspector.

Maximum line speed

The rule provides for operation at a maximum line speed of 140 for young chicken slaughter establishments and 55 birds per minute for turkey slaughter plants.

This was changed from 175 birds per minute in a 2012 proposed rule after responses to public comment.

The rule specifies applicability dates for the regulations that give procedures for controlling visible fecal contamination, contamination throughout slaughter and dressing process, and recordkeeping.  

It will be applicable from November 19 in establishments with 500 or more employees.

Establishments with 10 or more employees but fewer than 500 from December 19 and sites with fewer than 10 employees or annual sales of less than $2.5m will be on February 17, 2015.

Young chicken and turkey slaughter plants have until February 23, 2015, to notify their District Office in writing of their intent to operate under the system.

Those who do not do so will be deemed to have chosen to continue with their current inspection system.

The final rule is based on the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP).

It establishes NPIS for young chickens and all turkeys but does not replace existing Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), the New Line Speed Inspection System (NELS), the New Turkey Inspection System (NTIS), or traditional inspection systems.

Opposition to the rule

However, not everyone believes the rule is a good idea. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and 15 members of the House of Representatives questioned the USDA’s poultry slaughter regulation in a letter last week to USDA secretary Tom Vilsack.

The letter requests answers to 26 questions in five categories: implementation and appropriations, food safety, FSIS staffing, worker safety and animal welfare.

“This rule abdicates food safety oversight from USDA into the hands of the industry and it places workers in jeopardy... the New Poultry Inspection System will not improve food and worker safety or ensure animal welfare laws are followed and enforced.”

Food & Water Watch filed a suit in federal court to stop the implementation of NPIS last month.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said the rules privatize poultry inspection, and allows the meat industry to police itself.

“The USDA’s decision to embrace the scheme—an initiative lobbied for by the meat industry for more than a decade—flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers. What’s more, we believe it’s illegal.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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