Comments Sought on In-Plant Video Monitoring

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) seeks comment by Dec. 14 on its new draft guidelines aimed at assisting meat and poultry establishments in the use of in-plant video monitoring to improve operations.

The draft guidance, Compliance Guidelines for Use of Video or Other Electronic Monitoring or Recording Equipment in Federally Inspected Establishments, comes as more meat and poultry companies are expressing an interest in video monitoring, said Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Meat Institute.

“Some people use a remote audit system where it’s monitored by an outside company, while others use video cameras for internal monitoring, but it’s not going to an outside source,” she said. “It’s still a relatively new technology, and since it requires a certain investment, right now you’re more likely to see it in larger companies than in smaller ones.”

Not only can video monitoring enhance humane handling of livestock, the technology can also improve food safety, said animal behavior expert and livestock industry consultant Temple Grandin, PhD. She points to Cargill, which has video cameras installed in all of its North American beef and pork plants, as the industry leader in this arena.

“You never know when the third party auditing firm is going to tune in and see what’s going on,” Dr. Grandin said. “All the plants get everybody else’s reports, and they’re doing contests with each other to see who can be the best.”

Cargill began the remote video auditing (RVA) pilot in the fall of 2008, according to Mike Siemens, PhD, leader of animal welfare and husbandry at the company, based in Minneapolis, Minn.

“Cargill has seen continual improvement with this approach to monitoring,” he said. “It has also contributed to assuring more uniform implementation and monitoring across multiple plants. If companies are looking for a tool to drive uniform implementation and monitoring with continual information feedback, then they should look at RVA.”

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