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New GAO Report Affirms HIMP Program for Poultry, Swine; Federal Vets Amplify Message

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

(American Meat Institute)

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week detailed encouraging findings about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) new inspection procedures that have been piloted in poultry and swine slaughter plants since 1998.

In the report, "U.S. GAO - Food Safety: More Disclosure and Data Needed to Clarify Impact of Changes to Poultry and Hog Inspections" GAO commented on some limitations in the data available to analyze the program and made two key recommendations.  First, FSIS should disclose limitations in the information, including the cost-benefit analysis the agency relied on for the rulemaking to modernize poultry slaughter inspections.  Second, for hogs, FSIS should collect and analyze the information necessary to determine whether the pilot project is meeting its purpose.

Notably, the GAO report did not recommend that FSIS should delay publishing a final rule on the new poultry inspection system.  In response, the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV) last week issued a statement agreeing with the GAO findings and urging FSIS to publish the poultry inspection final rule as soon as practicable.

"Our experience is that the new poultry inspection system results in safer meat," says Dr. Douglas Fulnechek, a veterinarian and president of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians.  "The new method preserves inspection for carcass wholesomeness, but emphasizes microbiological control of the slaughter and dressing process to reduce the foodborne illness causing organisms Salmonella and Campylobacter."

The NAFV criticized some reporting about the GAO report, saying the media reports mischaracterized GAO's findings.  "Most of these assert GAO claims that the FSIS data from the pilot was poorly analyzed. However, GAO simply declares a universal finding inherent in all the best studies - data has its limitations," and NASV press release noted. 

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