Meat and Poultry Inspection: Background and Selected Issues Page: 4 of 24
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Meat and Poultry Inspection:
Background and Selected Issues
Background on the Programs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection
Service (FSIS) is responsible for inspecting most meat, poultry, and processed egg
products for safety, wholesomeness, and proper 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. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS), is responsible for ensuring the safety of virtually
all other human foods, including seafood, and for animal drugs and feed ingredients.1
Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906. This law as amended (21 U.S.C.
601 et seq.) has long required USDA to inspect all cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses,
mules, and other equines brought into any plant to be slaughtered and processed into
products for human consumption.2
Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957. This law as amended (21
U.S.C. 451 et seq.) makes poultry inspection mandatory for any domesticated birds
intended for use as human food. The current list of included species is chickens,
turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, ratites (ostrich, emu, and rhea), and squabs (pigeons
up to one month old).
This report does not compare and contrast FSIS responsibilities with those of FDA, which
are separately authorized and operate under a considerably different regulatory framework.
These differences could have significance in the longstanding debate over the need, if any,
for reorganizing U.S. food safety authorities and programs. See CRS Report RS22600, The
Federal Food Safety System: A Primer, by Geoffrey S. Becker and Donna V. Porter.
2 The FY2006 USDA appropriation (P.L. 109-97, Section 798) amends the Meat Inspection
Act to alter the statutory designation of livestock which are required to undergo mandatory
inspection if destined for human food - from "cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules,
and other equines" to "amenable species." Section 798 then defines "amenable species" to
mean: (1) "those species subject to the provisions of the [Meat Inspection] Act on the day
before the date of enactment" of the 2006 appropriation (i.e., the same species previously
delineated in the inspection act); (2) "any additional species of livestock that the Secretary
considers appropriate." These changes were made during the House-Senate conference on
the appropriation measure.
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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/m1/4/: accessed January 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.