USDA’s New Swine Slaughter Rule Hit By Lawsuit

12:42PM Jan 15, 2020
Pork processing plant
( Pixabay )

A new lawsuit has been brought against the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection. 

USDA’s final rule on swine inspection modernizes inspection at market hog slaughter establishments in order to protect public health and allow for food safety innovations. The final rule, published on Oct. 1, 2019, in the Federal Register, includes changes to processing line speeds, allowing plants to make their own decisions and judgments when setting maximum line speeds. The rule also moves some inspection tasks from USDA inspection workers to pork plant workers instead.

The lawsuit, filed by Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety, challenges USDA’s overhaul of pork plant inspections, believing that these changes will lead to unsafe meat being sold to consumers. The lawsuit alleges that the new swine inspection rule will put public health at risk—including not only consumers but pork plant workers as well. 

According to a USDA press release, the rule provides new requirements for microbial testing that apply to all swine slaughterhouses demonstrating that they are controlling for pathogens throughout the slaughter system. As well, FSIS is amending its meat inspection regulations to establish a new inspection system for market hog establishments called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS).

FSIS requires all swine slaughter establishments to develop written sanitary dressing plans and implement microbial sampling to monitor process control for enteric pathogens that can cause foodborne illness. The final rule also allows market hog establishments to choose if they will operate under NSIS or continue to operate under traditional inspection, USDA said in the release.

FSIS will continue to conduct 100% inspection of animals before slaughter and 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection, as mandated by Congress. Under the NSIS, FSIS offline inspectors will conduct more food safety and humane handling verification tasks to protect the food supply and animal welfare.

“It’s all about the science,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, in a FSIS release highlighting 2019 accomplishments in protecting public health. “Science and data inform every decision we make.”

Less than two weeks after USDA’s final rule was published to the Federal Register in October, the United Food and Commercial Workers filed a lawsuit against the agency alleging similar claims.

More from Farm Journal’s PORK:
Union Representing Pork Processing Plant Workers Sues USDA

USDA Finalizes Rule to Modernize Swine Slaughter Inspection

Swine Inspection Program Would Increase Efficiency, Harvest Capacity

USDA Sets the Record Straight on New Swine Slaughter Inspection System Proposal