On June 6, 2014, Food & Water Watch, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, sent a letter to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) requesting that FSIS revoke the equivalency status determinations for four meat inspection programs. The programs include the Australian Export Meat Inspection System, the Alternate New Zealand Meat Inspection Procedure, the Canadian High Line Speed Inspection System, and the Canadian HACCP-based Slaughter Inspection Program for Swine. Specifically, Food & Water Watch is concerned that these four meat inspection programs have replaced government meat inspectors with company employees, resulting in unsafe food inspections.
FSIS has based its equivalency determinations for these meat inspection services on the pilot program known as the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (“HACCP”) based Inspection Models Project (“HIMP”) for hog slaughter. FSIS began this program in 1997 by allowing five large hog slaughter plants to have faster line speeds with fewer FSIS inspectors. The five hog slaughter facilities enrolled in the program represented less than one percent of all hog slaughter facilities that have been given federal inspection grants. In May 2013, the USDA stated that even though the purpose of the pilot program was to increase food safety and plant efficiency, FSIS could not determine whether the program met these goals because FSIS did not provide adequate oversight for the program.
In response to the USDA’s May 2013 evaluation of the HIMP program, FSIS announced that a report on the HIMP pilot for hog slaughter would be completed by the end of March 2014. Prior to that time, the United States Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released an audit report in August 2013 analyzing HIMP pilots in poultry and swine slaughter. In the audit, GAO reviewed the HIMP pilots for young turkey and young chicken plants and criticized the FSIS’s data collection regarding those programs. The Food & Water Watch’s petition continued by reminding the USDA that FSIS still has not released its report on the HIMP pilot for hog slaughter, which FSIS had previously stated would be completed by March 2014.
As a result of these inadequacies, the Food & Water Watch concluded its petition by requesting that the USDA revoke all equivalency determinations that have been made based on the untested HIMP pilot program for hog slaughter because the determinations were not based on science. By allowing the facilities to continue operating under such equivalency determinations, Food & Water Watch believes that the health and safety of US consumers will be in jeopardy because of inadequate inspections from exporting countries.