The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to dilute the role of veterinarians in animal slaughter. It is a change made during a persistent and severe national DVM shortage. But those Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs) at USDA believe fewer veterinarians put both food safety and consumer protection at risk.

FSIS veterinarians are involved in every aspect of food safety and public health, including diagnosing and treating disease, managing surveillance programs, and inspecting animals, slaughterhouses, and food products.

The forecasts for the shortage of DMVs are expected to continue for the rest of the decade when there will still be an unmet need for 15,000 veterinarians.

This is expected to be used for both poultry and livestock. A non-veterinarian supervisor will supervise the inspection on both shifts of a single plant. An FSIS veterinarian with 26 years on the job said that without the daily presence and federal regulation enforcement, which will sometimes be available from a veterinarian, the food supply will be losing a necessary step for providing safe food for consumers.

A USDA Accredited Veterinarian has completed formal training from the National Veterinary Accreditation Program (NVAP) in the state(s) they are licensed to practice medicine in. Accreditation is state-specific and voluntary. Not all veterinarians are accredited.

This “solution” to the shortage of veterinarians in FSIS is sub-optimal, current FSIS veterinarians say; it does address the current reality of being unable to recruit and retain veterinarians in FSIS. It will reduce the overall number of available veterinary positions, but the reality is that those positions are not being filled anyway.

NAFV takes the position that both should happen, the move to create a District veterinarian position to cover more plants but also do the things necessary to attract new veterinarians into covering more plants.

With its inability to fill its veterinary openings, the FSIS policy change is no surprise. According to reports, FSIS is removing veterinarians from poultry plants under the New Poultry Inspection System. A new position known as the District Veterinary Medical Officer is being established for every four to seven plants.

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