Inhumane treatment in the handling and/or slaughtering of animals was cited last quarter at three out of four large-volume plants where USDA meat inspectors started administrative actions, either now taken or pending, that often end with short suspensions.

The nation’s top meat producers — Cargill Meat Solutions, JBS, and Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. — own and operate seven of those large plants, where employment tops 500 and production levels put them among the elite high-volume plants.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) just released its Third Quarter Enforcement Report for the period ending June 30, 2015. It includes all regulatory actions taken, from noncompliance records to criminal convictions.

FSIS uses the federal fiscal year calendar that begins on Oct. 1. For the large plants, the report states that inhumane treatment was the top reason for taken, or pending, administrative actions, with that reason being the basis for actions involving 16 plants. In only one of the seven violations involving plants owned by one of the big three was inhumane treatment not a factor.

Cargill Meat Solutions, at both Wyalusing, PA, and Fort Morgan, CO, was written up for inhumane treatment of animals. Cargill served a one-day suspension at Wyalusing, but filed an appeal in Fort Morgan, which resulted in FSIS rescinding its letter and closing the case.

Inhumane handling violations against JBS came in Grand Island, NE, Souderton, PA, and Louisville, KY. JBS took a one-day suspension at its Kentucky plant. Tyson had two instances of inhumane treatment — at Lexington, NE, and Logansport, IN — which resulted in three suspensions of one day or less.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Sanitation Performance Standards (SPS) were the basis for most of the other administrative actions against large plants during the period. Five of the 16 plants were out of compliance with their HACCP plans, and four had SPS violations. The other only administrative actions involved Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (2); Interference (1), and Other (1). In some cases, an administrative action occurred outside the period for which it was reported.

In addition to large plants, FSIS has two other categories for its meat and poultry facilities. Small plants are those with 10 or more employees but fewer than 500, and Very Small plants are those with 10 or fewer employees and annual sales of less than $2.5 million.

During the quarter, 48 small plants accounted for 29 HACCP actions and 20 SPS administrative actions. Both categories outpaced inhumane treatment, which accounted for 15 administrative actions at the small plants. There were also 13 SSOP violations, six involving other categories and one Interference or Assault events.

In the Very Small plant category, an apparent 121 establishments racked up 71 HACCP administrative actions, which bested 53 in the inhumane treatment category. The very small plants also recorded 51 Sanitation Performance Standards violations, 37 Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures problems, 12 Other category issues, and one infraction for Interference or Assault.

With almost 6,300 federally inspected meat and poultry processing plants in the United States, it makes the 194 called out in the current report on administrative actions only about three percent of the total. USDA’s meat inspectors performed 1.64 million verification procedures during the quarter and documented noncompliance 25,026 times, for a verification rate of 98.5 for its regulatory procedures.

FSIS Noncompliance records (NRs) were appealed 280 times during the three-month period, and the company won 67 and lost 145 of those challenges. And 39 appeals resulted in a modified NR.

Foreign producers presented 1.1 billion pounds of meat and poultry to USDA at the border for inspection. A total of just more than 11.2 million pounds was refused entry.

In federal district court, Danny Martinez-Garcia, president of Puerto Rico-based Hatillo, plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts involving the sale and transportation of meat and poultry products without inspection. He was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $1,050.

FSIS filed administrative complaints against Home Fresh Foods in Denver, Rio Tex Wholesale Meat Processing in Mercedes, TX, and Tri-Town Packing Corp. FSIS wants both Home Fresh and Rio Tex to withdraw from federal inspection services because they failed to prevent insanitary conditions and implement an adequate control program for Listeria “in the post-lethality RTE environment.” The agency reached a consent decree with Tri-Town to allow it to resume operations so long as it meets FSIS’s statutory and regulatory requirements.

In addition, FSIS filed notice of withdrawing inspection services from Fairmount, IN-based Zabiha Halal Meats for failure to dispose of dead animals. It also wants to withdraw inspection services from the Norwood, NC, Halal Meat Slaughterhouse because of the felony conviction of its owner, Zafer R. Kafozi.

Jack’s Egg Farm in Brooklyn, NY, agreed to a civil penalty stipulation with a $2,660 fine attached. The report does not indicate what the company did to result in the penalty.

Two Notices of Ineligibility were served, one the 5-Alarm Smokehouse and Custom Butchering in Mt. Pleasant, MI, and the other on Manuel Ranch in Hialeah, FL. In both instances, FSIS found that the facilities were not being kept in a sanitary condition.

Overall, the number of livestock and poultry carcasses inspected by USDA remained strong during the quarter. The number of livestock carcasses inspected totaled 35,626,746, a little lower than the two previous quarters, which, respectively, totaled 36.4 million and 36.2 million. FSIS condemned 47,196 head during the period. The number of poultry carcasses topped 2.2 billion, almost the exact amount recorded for the past three quarters.

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