Privatized Poultry Inspection: USDA’s Pilot Project Results
The USDA has been running a pilot project called the HACCP-based Inspection Model Project (HIMP) in two-dozen slaughter facilities since 1998. The majority of these plants are young chicken slaughter plants, but there are also turkey and market hog slaughter plants included in the pilot. In the chicken plants, line speeds have been permitted to run faster than other poultry slaughter plants. In HIMP plants, company employees perform inspections that used to be performed by USDA inspectors. USDA conducts sampling of product at the end of the slaughter line to assess the plants’ performance in several categories.
The categories of defects tracked by USDA sampling are considered to be either Food Safety issues or Other Consumer Protection issues. USDA has a “zero tolerance” policy for Food Safety issues, which means that products with these defects are not allowed into commerce. (The file posted below includes Noncompliance Records filed by USDA inspectors when these Food Safety defects were found.) The defects that are considered to be Other Consumer Protection issues are what many consumers would consider as conditions that do live up to the standard of wholesomeness, but USDA does not have a zero tolerance standard for this category of defects.
For the Food Safety categories, USDA samples 10 birds every hour in a shift, for a total of 80 birds per 8-hour shift. For the Other Consumer Protection categories, the amount of sampling done by USDA varies from 20 to 50 birds per shift.
Food & Water Watch requested sampling results from USDA under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2011. Because of the volume of records, we had to limit our request to selected plants and the first shift of production. In addition, we were asked to narrow the scope of the request to the six-month period of March 1 through August 31, 2011, but we did receive some records for some plants dating back to January 3, 2011. Some of the sample sizes are different because of plants shutting down for various periods of time. We received HIMP Form 1 records for 11 of the 20 broiler plants in the HIMP pilot and three of the four turkey plants.
Food Safety [FS]
FS-1 Condition – Infectious
FS-2 Contamination – Digestive Content
Other Consumer Protection [OCP]
OCP-1 Condition – Animal Diseases
The list of diseases includes cadaver birds (those that were dead before being processed in the plant), tumors, and pneumonia.
OCP-2 Condition – Miscellaneous
The list of conditions includes blisters, bruises, external mutilation, fractures, sores, and scabs.
OCP-3 Digestive Content
(Contents of the digestive tract referred to as ingesta.)
OCP-4 Dressing Defects – Other
The list includes feathers, oil glands, trachea.
OCP-5 Dressing Defects – Digestive Tract Tissue
The list includes parts that have not been removed including esophagus, intestine, and crop (a food storage organ in the neck).