The USDA is updating its swine slaughter inspection process for the first time in 50 years.
The agency finalized the new rules on September 17 and they will take effect in early December.
“Our current system focuses on visible contamination and quality defects on carcasses,” Mindy Brashears, PhD, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety tells Food Quality & Safety. “Although these things will still be a priority, the new system will also focus on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) tasks, sanitation, and animal welfare.”
The proposal was released in February 2018 and the agency accepted and reviewed over 83,000 comments.
“There were delays along the way, as different governmental bodies reviewed the rule,” Dr. Brashears says.
The rules will allow companies to choose their own slaughter speeds. They will also mandate new microbial testing for facilities in order to improve process control. According to Dr. Brashears, slaughterhouses will be required to test for microbial organisms at two points in the process. Additionally, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is amending its meat inspection regulations to establish a new inspection system for market hog establishments called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS).
The HACCP system requires plants to take a preventative approach to food safety by critically analyzing processes, identifying hazards, and employing control measures to prevent hazards from occurring.
“Our new inspection system goes hand in hand with HACCP,” Dr. Brashears says. “Inspectors will focus more resources on making sure the HACCP process is being followed and that sanitation programs are in place.” FSIS will still have 100 percent carcass visual inspection and 100 percent ante and postmortem inspection.
Plants can choose whether or not to opt into the new inspection system, which will allow them to trim off any visual contamination on a carcass before it’s presented for slaughter. In the traditional system, if an inspector found a defect it was re-routed back to the plant for trimming and then re-presented for inspection. “The new inspection is more efficient for larger plants, but may not be as beneficial for smaller plants,” Dr. Brashears says.
The final rule has been tested in real-life environments through pilot programs for more than 20 years, according to Dr. Brashears.