CFA submitted the following comments on the Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule to overhaul swine slaughter inspection. The proposed rule would eliminate limits on line speeds, reduce inspector staffing at large plants by nearly half (from 11 to 6 inspectors), shift responsibility for detecting diseases in live animals and carcasses from government inspectors to company employees, eliminate mandatory pathogen performance standards, replace microbiological testing requirements with voluntary measures, and establish an ambiguous “process control” standard.
Although the agency has carried out a pilot program that enacts some of these reforms in five slaughter plants for over a decade, the agency has failed to marshal evidence that the pilot program actually improves food safety. The proposed rule lacks adequate safeguards to protect consumers from foodborne illness threats that are likely to emerge as a result of higher line speeds, a reduced inspection force, and the elimination of microbiological testing standards. CFA’s comments urge FSIS to withdraw the rule, and to seek out instead evidence-based reforms that will improve food safety, and not simply boost pork processors’ profits.