Final rule for New Swine Inspection System could stall out in Congress


By Dan Flynn, Food Safety News by Marler Clark

June 6, 2019


Change often comes slowly at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, but it’s not always the agency’s fault.


This week produced one such example. Modernizing swine inspection has been on FSIS’s to do list for about 20 years. Last February, the agency published a proposed rule to make it happen after a final public comment period.


But veteran U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, thinks the new swine inspection protocols are coming way too fast. DeLauro, who serves on the House Democratic leadership team, this week got the House Appropriations Committee to accept her amendment to slow down swine inspection changes.


DeLauro, who has served Connecticut’s Third Congressional District since 1991, put forth the amendment requiring USDA’s Inspector General (IG) to investigate the issue and demanding USDA “resolve any issues identified before implementing the rule.”


The DeLauro amendment, also sponsored by Rep. David Price, D-GA, would not become law unless approved by the Senate and signed by President Trump. However, if it become law, it would be all but impossible to predict when the current regulatory process for swine inspections would come to an end.


Comments on the proposed rule were due on May 2, and USDA might go ahead and adopt a final rule before Congress will finish up its budget business for 2020.


Swine inspections are the last vestige of USDA’s “poke and sniff” era. As of May, 113 poultry plants have converted to the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). Nine more conversions to the modernized process are in the works.


Just as proposed for swine, the modern poultry system gives inspectors more critical food safety assignments than just watching the production line. But like poultry, swine inspection modernization has generated controversy for more than two decades.


Existing swine inspections require USDA inspectors to spend a significant amount of time inspecting for quality-related defects rather than verifying food safety related process controls and the effectiveness of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems, according to the agency.


Under both the existing and proposed swine inspection systems, FSIS inspectors conduct 100 percent of the inspections before and after slaughter.


Existing inspection protocols limit production line speeds in pork plants...