Washington, D.C.—“In the most recent audit conducted by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the Canadian meat inspection system, FSIS found that the inspection system for most of the Canadian meat slaughter plants audited was “not equivalent” to that of the U.S. The audit concluded that the state of Canada’s inspection system raises questions about its equivalence to the United States’ system.
“Ironically, Canada has adopted a privatized inspection model in many of its poultry, hog and beef slaughter plants similar in design to the HAACP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) that FSIS would like to expand in the U.S. In these plants, company employees perform most tasks that have normally been conducted by government inspectors on the slaughter lines. In 2014, FSIS finalized its regulations for the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) that permitted poultry slaughter plants to adopt the privatized inspection model. At last report, 53 poultry slaughter plants have converted to the new inspection system. Now, FSIS officials have publicly stated that the agency intends to expand its HIMP pilot project in hog slaughter from only five plants to allowing the entire industry to adopt it.
“Among the plants that FSIS cited in the Canadian audit for not being in compliance with USDA inspection requirements were two hog slaughter facilities, operated by Agromex and Olymel, that use the Canadian version of HIMP, and two beef slaughter facilities, operated by JBS and Cargill, that use a deregulated inspection model for beef slaughter. The JBS plant was involved in the largest meat recall in Canadian history in 2012, including 2.5 million pounds of beef products that been exported to the U.S. At that time, the plant was owned by XL Foods. For all four plants, FSIS criticized the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for not positioning the few government inspectors left on the slaughter line so they could ensure that carcasses were free from feces or other contaminants that could lead to pathogens in meat products.
“Once again, FSIS speaks with forked tongue. Why does FSIS find fault with another country’s privatized meat inspection system, one that FSIS itself blessed over ten years ago? Could it be because privatizing food safety inspection does not actually improve food safety as it diminishes government oversight? Unfortunately, the hypocrisy does not end there. Now, FSIS wants to expand privatized inspection here in the U.S. The agency cannot credibly show that the plants operating under NPIS, or the hog slaughter plants operating under HIMP for that matter, deliver better food safety outcomes. It cannot have it both ways.
“We intend to fight the expansion of privatized inspection when FSIS decides to move forward with a proposed rule in hog slaughter. It is a gift to industry, and will negatively affect consumers.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, firstname.lastname@example.org