Meat Industry INSIGHTS Newsletter

970740 USDA Meeting to Examine Meat Inspectors' Duties

June 6, 1997 -- USDA held a meeting last week on what duties federal meat inspectors should perform as the industry shifts to scientific testing to ensure food safety. Last July, the Clinton Administration launched a major overhaul of U.S. meat inspection based on a system known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

"The HACCP and microbial testing are going to give us more of a science-based measure," said Jacque Knight, spokeswoman for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service."Are there other ways to use inspectors instead of having them looking at every carcass?"

USDA has said it is interested in beefing up inspection of food transport.

Consumer groups are concerned the department is jumping the gun.

"To move to get inspectors out of the plants seems really premature," said Felicia Nestor, food safety expert at the Government Accountability Project. "We don't really know how plants are going to adopt HACCP. We don't know if it's going to be a smooth transition or not," she said.

The meeting has generated so much interest, last week USDA extended it by an additional half-day to accomodate everyone who wanted to testify.

Knight said FSIS administrator Thomas Billy would address the meeting by audio from Geneva where he is participating in a meeting on international food safety standards.

The department will use the comments from this week's session, as well as written comments, to produce a pilot program for inspectors.

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