News | May 19, 1999

USDA Aims to Drop Some Pre-HACCP Meat Plant Rules

The U.S. Agriculture Department has proposed to lift a variety of requirements at meat and poultry plants that are no longer necessary with the government's switch to a science-based inspection procedure. The Food and Safety and Inspection Service's proposal to drop partial quality control programs comes during growing pressure from Congress for the agency to make good on its promise to eliminate overlapping regulations.

The changes have been sought for months by some 72 U.S. poultry slaughtering plants and 3,550 meat and poultry processing plants. The combines plants would save an estimated $1 million annually by dropping the quality control programs, according to FSIS figures.

The proposed change means slaughtering plants would no longer have to seek FSIS approval in designing quality control programs. Instead, companies would incorporate safety steps into inspection procedures using Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). Quality control programs can range from checking the accuracy of measurement scales to specifying the level of nitrites in bacon curing. All major and medium-sized U.S. meat and poultry plants have adopted the HACCP system of inspection during the past two years under the guidance of the USDA.

"This proposal is intended to provide inspected establishments with flexibility, to make the regulations more consistent with the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points regulations, and to encourage establishments to adopt new technologies and methods that will improve food safety and other consumer protections," said the FSIS.