Meat and Poultry Inspection: Background and Selected Issues Page: 2 of 24
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Meat and Poultry Inspection:
Background and Selected Issues
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection
Service (FSIS) must inspect most meat, poultry, and processed egg products for
safety, wholesomeness, and labeling. Federal inspectors or their state counterparts
are present at all times in virtually all slaughter plants and for at least part of each day
in establishments that further process meat and poultry products. Debate has ensued
for decades over whether this system, first designed in the early 1900s, has kept pace
with changes in the food production and marketing industries. The following are
among issues of possible interest to lawmakers in the 110th Congress.
Is enough being done to address longstanding concerns about naturally
occurring microbiological contamination? In 1996, FSIS added a sweeping new
system known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) - essentially
plant-specific contamination prevention plans - on top of the traditional "sight-,
smell-, and touch-based" inspection system. Past bills, proposing to clarify USDA's
use of pathogen performance standards, could be reintroduced.
Does FSIS have adequate funding and resources, and/or should industry pay
more for inspection? FSIS inspection is mainly funded through USDA's annual
appropriation. Congress has denied successive Administrations' proposals to impose
new user fees. Separately, USDA has announced that it would start introducing in
2007 a controversial new "risk based inspection system" aimed at shifting some
existing resources from processing (but not yet slaughter) plants and products that
pose relatively lower safety risks to others posing relatively higher risks.
Should state-inspected meat and poultry products be allowed in interstate
commerce? H.R. 1760/ S. 1149 would lift the longstanding ban on such shipments.
Should USDA be given more authority to recall suspect meat and poultry
products? Bills to broaden recall authority also could be offered, as in the past.
Is legislation needed to improve the ability to trace animals, meat, and poultry
products? Past bills to establish mandatory or voluntary systems to do so, at least for
animal disease purposes, could be reintroduced. On the other hand, one bill (H.R.
1018) would prohibit a mandatory animal ID system.
Should Congress further address animal welfare? Proposed bills (H.R. 661; S.
394) are pending that would require the immediate euthanization of nonambulatory
livestock and that would ban their use for human food. Separately, H.R. 503 and S.
311 would ban horse slaughter for human consumption.
Should U.S. food safety responsibilities be consolidated under a single agency?
Companion bills did not advance in the 109th Congress, but there is continued interest
in them in the 110th Congress, where H.R. 1148 and S. 654, to create a single food
agency, have been introduced.
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Meat and Poultry Inspection: Background and Selected Issues, report, April 30, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc807081/m1/2/: accessed May 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.