­The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is learning that if you want something, you should ask for it. FSIS wants a beef plant to explore modernization through a waiver process, and Tyson Foods has offered its Holcomb, KS, beef operation as a candidate.

While FSIS reportedly has been working “at a high level” on beef slaughter modernization, there is no 25-year history of pilot projects in beef as there was with poultry and swine.

According to the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), FSIS leadership and the beef industry want to take knives away from inspectors, reduce overall inspection staffing, and support freedom for innovation and flexibility by “letting HACCP work.”

Tyson Foods has submitted a waiver request that involves evaluating slaughter inspection based on its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for the Holcomb production plant.

FSIS is reviewing the waiver request. It cannot adversely affect the safety of the product, FSIS personnel, interfere with inspection procedures, or conflict with the Federal Meat Inspection Act or its associated regulations.

Tyson’s letter to FSIS mentions the lack of a HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) for beef. If granted the waiver, Tyson said its employees could take over postmortem, pre-sort activities, including identifying and trimming out isolated defects and identifying conditions for additional review by a public health veterinarian.

Opponents of these efforts say it amounts to privatizing some of the inspection process. The FSIS insists its personnel are the only people doing inspections required by law.

The FSIS had two roundtable meetings in May 2018 to collect feedback on how the agency could modernize beef inspection. With its final rule on poultry modernization adopted and its swine modernization final rule pending, beef is next up on the agency’s list of tasks.

Tyson operates 12 beef plants, 9 hog facilities and 50 poultry plants.  During 2018, on average Tyson’s beef slaughter was 133,000 head per week.

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