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USDA Establishes Meat Inspection Timeline

New risk-based inspections of meat and poultry processing facilities will begin gradually starting in April.

USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service announced a timeline Thursday for implementation of a risk-based approach to inspecting meat and poultry processing plants.

FSIS Under Secretary Dr. Richard Raymond said in a press conference that the program will start with an initial 30 "prototype" sites, representing 250 pure processing facilities, in April. The program could expand to as many 150 as prototype locations by the beginning of 2008.

The risk-based approach will change the "intensity" rather than the frequency of inspections, Raymond says. "We're no longer treating every plant just like every other plant down the road."

FSIS will identify the plants that have better or worse food safety track records and relocate resources to the latter, requiring those plants to bring their systems up to higher standards.

The program will not cover slaughterhouses for the time being.

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