For the first time in more than five decades, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is modernizing inspection at market hog slaughter establishments with a goal of protecting public health while allowing for food safety innovations. The final rule has new requirements for microbial testing that apply to all swine slaughterhouses to demonstrate that they are controlling for pathogens throughout the slaughter system. Additionally, FSIS is amending its meat inspection regulations to establish a new inspection system for market hog establishments called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System.
“This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate,” says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “The final rule is the culmination of a science-based and data-driven rule making process which builds on the food safety improvements made in 1997, when USDA introduced a system of preventive controls for industry. With this rule, FSIS will finally begin full implementation of that program in swine establishments.”
In the final rule, FSIS amends the regulations to require all swine slaughter establishments to develop written sanitary dressing plans and implement microbial sampling to monitor process control for enteric pathogens that can cause foodborne illness. The final rule also allows market hog establishments to choose if they will operate under NSIS or continue to operate under traditional inspection.
“We applaud the USDA for introducing a new inspection system that incentivizes investment in new technologies while ensuring a safe supply of wholesome American pork,” says National Pork Producers Council president David Herring, a producer from Lillington, N.C. “The U.S. pork production system is the envy of the world because we continuously adopt new practices and technologies, while enhancing safety, quality and consistency. This new inspection system codifies the advancements we have made into law, reflecting a 21st century industry.”
The NSIS, which has been piloted at five pork processing plants, was developed over many years of research and evaluation and recently received the endorsement of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, highlighting the strong science-based approach used in designing the program.
“The U.S. industry has long been a global leader in offering the highest quality, safest and most affordable pork to consumers here at home and abroad. We are proud of our record and welcome this program to further modernize our production process,” Herring says.
FSIS will continue to conduct 100% inspection of animals before slaughter and 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection, as mandated by Congress. FSIS inspectors will also retain the authority to stop or slow the line as necessary to ensure that food safety and inspection are achieved. Under the NSIS, FSIS offline inspectors will conduct more food safety and humane handling verification tasks to protect the food supply and animal welfare.