Meat Institute Claims NBC Pork Inspection Story is Short on Facts

( FSIS, USDA )

An NBC News story claims that some of America's food inspectors are concerned about changes in rules for meat inspection.

In September, USDA announced a final rule to modernize swine slaughter inspection in order to continue to protect public health and allow for food safety innovations.

The rule provides new requirements for microbial testing and amended its meat inspection regulations to establish a new inspection system for market hog establishments called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS).

Under the NSIS, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offline inspectors will conduct more food safety and humane handling verification tasks to protect the food supply and animal welfare, USDA said in a September press release.

However, NBC News reported a different story on Monday.

"The consumer's being duped,” FSIS inspector Jill Mauer told NBC News. "They believe that it actually is getting federally inspected when there's no one there to even watch or do anything about anything."

She and other inspectors claim plant employees with little experience or training are doing minimal checking and sorting in an effort to maintain line speeds and keep plant owners happy, NBC reports.

The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) issued a statement saying there are many falsehoods and mischaracterizations in NBC’s reporting on pork inspection in the U.S.

“In a blatant attempt to politicize food inspection, NBC ignores the fact that the New Swine Inspection System has been studied and proposed over the last three presidential administrations, and it gets worse from there,” the Meat Institute wrote. “America’s meat and poultry packers and processors have every incentive to ensure their products are safe. Food safety is the number one priority in both NSIS and traditional pork plants.”

Throughout the past 50 years, advancements in food science, animal handling and meat processing have been embraced and deployed by the meat and poultry industry, the statement said. Along with that, the incidence of certain pathogens and injuries to workers have decreased dramatically, too.

In both NSIS and traditional systems, facilities may not operate in a way that jeopardizes food safety or worker safety, Meat Institute wrote. FSIS federal inspectors inspect 100% of all animals and carcasses. FSIS inspectors maintain the authority to both slow or stop the production line at any time. Line speeds are routinely adjusted to compensate for changes in staffing and other variables.

“Another inconvenient truth NBC ignores because it does not fit their narrative is that in the 15 years FSIS spent testing this system, the pilot plants averaged line speeds of 1,099 head per hour, less than the line speed allowed in the traditional system which is 1,106 head per hour,” the Meat Institute said.

“The bias of the story is clear from the fact that after the story’s first airing, the producer went to Twitter and thanked the special interest groups NBC worked with on the story -- groups who have long been hostile to animal agriculture,” the statement said. “Americans should continue to enjoy meat and poultry and trust a food safety system where both the industry and the regulator have the same goal: to ensure the food we feed our families is safe.”

The North American Meat Institute is the leading voice for the meat and poultry industry. The Meat Institute’s members process the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, as well as manufacture the equipment and ingredients needed to produce the safest and highest quality meat and poultry products.
 

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

USDA Finalizes Rule to Modernize Swine Slaughter Inspection

New Voluntary Performance Standards for Pork Plants

 

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

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