Change is on the way for meat/poultry processors

US - Meat and poultry processing plants are in for a change -- more concentrated risk-based inspection system (RBI).
calendar icon 13 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

The changes will initially become effective in April, at 30 different locations (254 plants) throughout the nation, and are expected to expand to 150 (1,200-1,300 plants) locations by year's end.

Longer term, risk-based inspection is expected to expand nationwide and the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) intends to expand this program to include slaughter and egg products facilities.

"They are taking a different approach on risk assessment and from that they will utilize government inspectors to focus more on where there are risks," said Dale Hart, general manager of the food group for Cooper Farms. "Long term goal is to find better utilization of government inspectors."

In a "nut shell," Hart explained that inspectors will spend more time at problem plants instead of equal time at all plants. "This is similar to what the FDA does with, say, potato chip plants."

Cooper Farms is not among the first 30 to be introduced to the changes. They do not know if they will be part of the following 150. "It's my understanding they are picking them at random," said Hart. "Our facility in Van Wert could probably be a subject."

According to the USDA's FSIS, the level of inspection at a plant will be based on several factors including the relative risk of what each plant produces, how plants control risk, FSIS testing results, verified consumer complaints, product recalls, illness rates measured by the Center for Disease Control, and scores.

A company is scored based on things like salmonella verification (0-3 points), enforcement actions (0-6 points), food safety recalls (2 or 3 points depending on class), and testing program results (3 for each positive not to exceed 9). The lower the score, the better the company is performing.

"We support the idea of putting resources where risks are the highest and allocating resources according to risk," said Chris Waldrop, director of food policy institute, with the Consumer Federation of America based in Washington, D.C. But, "USDA is moving way too quickly. They need more data to back up the assumptions on risk."


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