US - A new voluntary code to modernise the US poultry inspection system aimed at reducing foodborne illness has been applauded by National Chicken Council (NCC).
The new system will also establish a new web site to aid understanding of the differences between the new and old systems of broiler carcae inspection.
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has sent its proposed rule to modernise the US poultry inspection system to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review, according to the NCC Washington Report. The notice is available on the OMB’s web site.
NCC's President, Mike Brown, commented: “I commend USDA for taking the next step in an effort to modernize the way the agency inspects chicken. In an effort to continue our progress towards reducing foodborne illnesses, we believe, along with food safety experts, that the poultry inspection system should be modernised and transitioned to a model that is more science and risk-based. Not only will this system build on our food safety progress, if fully implemented, it will create jobs.”
“We look forward to reviewing the final rule in its entirety once it is published in the Federal Register. After a successful 15-year pilot programme, I urge OIRA to perform an expeditious review.”
At facilities that process chickens for meat, FSIS is the public health agency within USDA that is responsible for inspecting every chicken. The US meat and poultry inspection system complements efforts by chicken processors to ensure that the nation’s supply of poultry products is safe, wholesome and correctly labelled and packaged.
In its risk assessment accompanying the proposed rule, FSIS estimated that if implemented, this modernized system would prevent more than 5,200 foodborne illnesses every year.
OIRA’s review of the rule is the last step before the rule becomes final and published in the Federal Register. The rule was proposed in January 27, 2012, and the comment period closed on 29 May 2012.
NCC Launches Web Site on Modernisation of Poultry Inspection
NCC has just launched of a new, informative web site – www.ChickenInspectionFacts.com - designed for consumers and the media to help them better understand both the traditional and modernised inspection processes. The web site contains: video of a chicken processing line; video testimonials from food safety, veterinary and poultry processing experts; a Myths & Facts section; a time-line; and several infographics and diagrams.
Mr Brown explained: “In an attempt to save a few federal union jobs that have proven unnecessary over the past 15 years, the inspectors union and their allies have spread many misconceptions about this inspection system and chicken processing in general.
“We hope this new web site will serve as both an educational tool and resource. After learning the facts, I’m sure taxpayers want their hard earned tax dollars going towards federal inspectors performing tasks like testing for Salmonella, instead of cutting broken wings off of chicken carcasses.”
Last December, a bipartisan group of 13 US senators from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to move forward with the proposal.
About the Modernised System
Under the proposed rule, USDA remains in its oversight role and USDA inspectors will still be in every poultry plant, looking at each chicken to ensure the safety of chicken products and providing them with the USDA seal of approval for wholesomeness, according to NCC..
The voluntary change would allow trained plant employees to check carcasses for defects and perform other quality-assurance tasks not related to food safety. That would free up some federal inspectors to focus more on food safety-related tasks, such as oversight and verification, microbiological testing for pathogens like Salmonella, sanitation standards and antimicrobial controls in the plant.
This system has been in place as a pilot in 20 chicken plants for the past 15 years, and has proven tremendously successful at improving food safety and protecting workers.
The new system, as proposed, would be voluntary for chicken processors.
TheMeatSite News Desk