USDA Rejects NCC’s Petition to Lift Poultry Line Speed
On August 21, 2014, FSIS published a final rule called the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” (79 FR 49566, Aug. 21, 2014) which amended the Agency’s poultry regulations to establish an inspection system called the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) for young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments. Under the final rule, the maximum line speed for young chicken slaughter establishments that operate under NPIS is 140 birds per minute. See 9 C.F.R. 381.69(a). As previously covered on this blog, on September 1, 2017, the National Chicken Council (NCC) petitioned USDA-FSIS to implement a waiver system to permit young chicken slaughter establishments participating in the NPIS and the Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) to operate without the line speed limitations imposed under the NPIS. FSIS accepted comments on the petition through December 13, 2017, receiving over 100,00 comments in total.
On January 29, 2017, rejected NCC’s petition. Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg explained in a letter that FSIS has already implemented procedures for establishments to request regulatory waivers, and on this basis, the Agency has determined that “it is not necessary to establish a separate system to provide line speed waivers to young chicken establishments operating under the NPIS.”
FSIS also specifically denied NCC’s request to allow for waivers that would permit young chicken establishments to operate under NPIS without maximum line speeds. In its response letter, FSIS explained that based on its experience under the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) pilot study, FSIS inspectors are able to conduct an effective online inspection of each carcass at line speeds of up to 175 bpm (79 FR 49592), and noted that NCC’s petition did not include data to demonstrate that inspectors can conduct an effective carcass-by-carcass inspection at line speeds faster than those authorized under HIMP.
FSIS did state in its January 29th letter that FSIS now has more than a year of documented process control history for many young chicken establishments operating under NPIS and “therefore, in the near future, FSIS intends to make available criteria that it will use to consider waiver requests from young chicken establishments, in addition to the current 20, to operate at line speeds up to 175 bpm.”