USDA Finalizes Rule to Modernize Swine Slaughter Inspection

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

USDA announced on Tuesday a final rule to modernize swine slaughter inspection. For the first time in more than 50 years, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is modernizing inspection at market hog slaughter establishments in order to protect public health and allow for food safety innovations. 

The final rule is the culmination of a science-based and data-driven rulemaking process. According to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the rule builds upon the food safety improvements made in 1997 after USDA introduced a system of preventive controls for the industry. 

“This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate,” Perdue said in a statement.

The rule provides new requirements for microbial testing that apply to all swine slaughterhouses demonstrating that they are controlling for pathogens throughout the slaughter system. As well, 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).

FSIS will require all swine slaughter establishments to develop written sanitary dressing plans and implement microbial sampling to monitor process control for enteric pathogens that can cause foodborne illness. The final rule also allows market hog establishments to choose if they will operate under NSIS or continue to operate under traditional inspection, USDA said in a press release.

"We applaud the USDA for introducing a new inspection system that incentivizes investment in new technologies while ensuring a safe supply of wholesome American pork," said National Pork Producers Council President David Herring, a producer from Lillington, N.C. "The U.S. pork production system is the envy of the world because we continuously adopt new practices and technologies, while enhancing safety, quality and consistency. This new inspection system codifies the advancements we have made into law, reflecting a 21st century industry."

FSIS will continue to conduct 100% inspection of animals before slaughter and 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection, as mandated by Congress. FSIS inspectors will also retain the authority to stop or slow the line as necessary to ensure that food safety and inspection are achieved. Under the NSIS, FSIS offline inspectors will conduct more food safety and humane handling verification tasks to protect the food supply and animal welfare.

The NSIS, which has been piloted at five pork processing plants, was developed over many years of research and evaluation and recently received the endorsement of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, highlighting the strong science-based approach used in designing the program.

"The U.S. industry has long been a global leader in offering the highest quality, safest and most affordable pork to consumers here at home and abroad. We are proud of our record and welcome this program to further modernize our production process," Herring said.  

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