New regulations for pork factories are seen by some as more akin to deregulation. Only time will tell.
The USDA Food and Safety and Inspections Service (FSIS) has new regulations for pork factories, allowing them more independence and power in deciding how to implement food safety. The new regulations for pork factories will allow pork factory workers, not USDA inspectors, to discard questionable carcasses or simply remove pieces that look inedible prior to presenting the carcasses to FSIS inspectors. The USDA claims it will still have a place in the process but it will be further down the chain of command. This new procedure, which is seen by many as industry favorable, will allow the pork industry to speed up the slaughtering process if factories choose the new inspection system.
According to Secretary Sonny Perdue:
“This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate. The final rule is the culmination of a science-based and data-driven rule making process which builds on the food safety improvements made in 1997, when USDA introduced a system of preventive controls for industry. With this rule, FSIS will finally begin full implementation of that program in swine establishments.”
The details of the new regulations for pork factories will call for swine processing plants to continue to comply with microbial testing throughout the factory to safeguard against pathogens that cause foodborne illness that cause severe symptoms and are a result of harmful bacteria, as well as parasites, viruses, or chemicals found in foods or beverages. But the new regulations, or deregulations, depending on who is discussing the changes, are intended to: “improve the effectiveness of market hog slaughter inspection; make better use of the Agency’s resources; and remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to industry innovation by revoking maximum line speeds and allowing establishments flexibility to reconfigure evisceration lines.”
Under the new regulations for pork factories, those that implement what the FSIS is calling this the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), are the pilot program for that could be used universally throughout all slaughterhouses.
At this early stage, any pork factory will be allowed to choose if it will or will not operate under the new NSIS. By working under the NSIS, the select pork factories will receive a new seal of inspection. Either way FSIS (Food and Safety and Inspections Service) is still obligated by Congress to inspect all animals before and after they have been slaughtered. The goal, however, is that under the NSIS, FSIS will allow for expedited food safety procedures that, theoretically, still protect the quality of the pork product as well as humane treatment of the animals before being slaughtered.
There are critics, however. One national food poisoning lawyer, Ron Simon, stated:
“the practice whereby factory owners, and not FSIS inspectors, are more in control of their food safety procedures, has the potential to allow unscrupulous producers to cut corners. Most food poisoning occurs from simple mistakes that can be prevented through careful and THOROUGH inspection of the product. Allowing employees to be in charge of this process, instead of neutral inspectors, raises a red flag.”
National food poisoning lawyer Ron Simon is not alone in his criticism, and a number of other groups have also voiced concern recently, including the Food and Water Watch, Consumer Federation of America, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the National Employment Law Project.