FSIS is proposing a new inspection system for poultry slaughter establishments that slaughter poultry species other than ratites. The rule would codify most of the poultry slaughter provisions that have been demonstrated to be successful through waivers of the existing regulations, thus ending most current waivers. The new inspection system would replace the current Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), the New Line Speed Inspection System (NELS), and the New Turkey Inspection System (NTIS). Under the proposed rule, poultry slaughter establishments would have to choose whether to operate under the traditional inspection system or under the proposed new inspection system. FSIS is proposing to limit the number of online inspectors in the traditional inspection system to two.
Key elements of the new inspection system include: (1) requiring establishment personnel to conduct carcass sorting activities before FSIS conducts online carcass inspection so that only carcasses that the establishment deems likely to pass inspection are presented to the carcass inspector; (2) reducing the number of online carcass inspectors to one per line; (3) permitting faster line speeds than are permitted under the current inspection systems it replaces; and (4) requiring establishments to regularly test for Salmonella and Campylobacter to provide ongoing microbial evidence of good processing control. The proposed new inspection system would facilitate the reduction of pathogen levels in poultry products by permitting FSIS to conduct more food safety related offline inspection activities, would allow for better use of FSIS inspection resources, and would lead to industry innovations in operations and processing.
In addition to the new poultry slaughter inspection system, FSIS is proposing the following changes that would apply to poultry slaughter establishments regardless of the inspection system under which they operate: (1) the current Finished Product Standards would be eliminated and replaced with a requirement that all poultry products must meet standards of composition for trim and dressing defects; (2) the current requirement to test for generic E. coli at post-chill would be eliminated and replaced with a requirement that all poultry slaughter establishments must regularly test for certain indicator organisms at re-hang to provide ongoing microbial evidence of good processing control; (3) all poultry slaughter establishments would be required to maintain a written process control plan addressing the prevention of carcass contamination by digestive tract contents and the prevention of microbial contamination before slaughter and throughout the slaughter and dressing operation; and (4) many existing waivers from provisions of the poultry slaughter regulations that FSIS has granted would be ended because the amended regulations would provide establishments with greater flexibility to determine how best to achieve various performance standards. Two important examples of the flexibility FSIS is proposing to incorporate into the regulations are to replace the current chilling requirements for ready-to-cook poultry, which now provide specific time and temperature parameters, with a rule that would give establishments greater flexibility to determine what chilling process is best suited to prevent outgrowth of pathogens on carcasses immediately after slaughter operations, and to permit establishments to use previously approved online reprocessing antimicrobial systems or previously approved offline reprocessing antimicrobial agents other than chlorine without requesting a waiver.