On July 31, 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) announced additional food safety requirements for chicken and turkey products. Specifically, the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection final rule will work to control Salmonella and Campylobacter and hopefully prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses each year by implementing the optional New Poultry Inspection System (“NPIS”). The NPIS is an updated inspection process that will situate food safety inspectors at poultry facilities in a more efficient manner.
Under the final rule, FSIS will require poultry companies to work to prevent poultry illnesses before they occur. For example, the rule will require poultry companies to perform two points of microbiological testing during the poultry production process to show that the companies are controlling the potential spread of Salmonella and Campylobacter. FSIS will also conduct additional testing that the agency has already been performing.
In addition to these new requirements, FSIS is introducing the optional NPIS system. Under the NPIS system, poultry companies would allow inspectors from the agency to focus on strategies that have been proven to increase food safety and decrease foodborne illnesses. Specifically, poultry companies will have to review their own products to determine whether the products contain any quality defects before providing the products to the FSIS inspectors. As a result, FSIS inspectors will have more time to remove birds from the line and take samples, conduct close food safety exams, review the sanitation of the plant, assure compliance with the facility’s food safety plans, and determine whether any birds show signs of treatment or disease.
After receiving public comments, FSIS decided to cap the maximum line speeds for plants that have adopted the NPIS program at 140 birds per minute, which is the maximum speed for existing inspection programs. Food companies working under the NPIS program must implement a process that encourages the companies to report illnesses or work-related injuries early.
The final rule quickly passed through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) located within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget after only a 20-day review period. The Center for Progressive Reform group and others have criticized the speed in which the rule passed through OIRA, stating that the speed of the review indicates that the final rule does not address many of the concerns that consumer groups have expressed.