Its proposed rule to modernise the US poultry inspection system has been sent by the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review.
The US poultry industry has reacted favorably to this move.
Meanwhile, Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, said the turkey industry is committed to working with the USDA to implement logical steps in modernising the US food-safety inspection system to ensure it remains the world's best. The turkey industry strives to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy turkey products with full confidence in its safety, he continued.
FSIS estimated that if implemented, this modernised system would prevent more than 5,200 foodborne illnesses every year. OIRA's review of the rule is the last step before the rule becomes final and published in the Federal Register. The rule was proposed in 27 January, 2012, and the comment period closed 29 May, 2012.
In other news, the National Chicken Council has launched a new, informative website - www.ChickenInspectionFacts.com - which was designed for consumers and the media to help them better understand both the traditional and modernised inspection processes. Featured in the website are a video of a chicken processing line; video testimonials from food safety, veterinary and poultry processing experts; a Myths & Facts section; a timeline; and several infographics and diagrams.
Last December, a bipartisan group of 13 US senators from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to move forward with the proposal.
Under the proposed rule, USDA remains in its oversight role and USDA inspectors will still be in every poultry plant, looking at each chicken to ensure the safety of chicken products and providing them with the USDA seal of approval for wholesomeness.
The voluntary change would allow trained plant employees to check carcasses for defects and perform other quality-assurance tasks not related to food safety. That would free up some federal inspectors to focus more on food safety-related tasks, such as oversight and verification, microbiological testing for pathogens like Salmonella
, sanitation standards and antimicrobial controls in the plant.
This system has been in place as a pilot in 20 chicken plants for the past 15 years, and has proven tremendously successful at improving food safety and protecting workers. The new system, as proposed, would be voluntary for chicken processors.