A Better Way for the Department of Agriculture To Inspect Meat and Poultry Processing Plants

CED-78-11: Published: Dec 9, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 9, 1977.

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The Federal Meat and Poultry Inspection Program provides for inspection of meat and poultry products moving in interstate and foreign commerce. Inspection is essential to protect the health and welfare of consumers and is carried out at slaughter and processing plants. The total federal meat and poultry inspection cost has increased rapidly in the last several years, from about $135 million in 1970 to about $242 million in 1976, an increase of 79 percent.

Under current procedures of the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Quality Service, most processing plants are inspected daily, even though an inspector may only spend a few hours each day at a plant. The Service's inspection resources could be used more efficiently and effectively if inspection frequency at processing plants was tailored to the inspection needs of individual plants. Periodic unannounced inspections would allow the Service to inspect more plants or inspect plants needing upgrading more frequently. Upgrading certain plants would provide greater assurance that consumers are getting wholesome, unadulterated, and properly branded products. Any system of periodic unannounced inspections should require an inplant quality-control system. The authority to require plant managements to develop and carry out adequate, reliable quality-control systems should be coupled with authority to apply strong penalties or sanctions when plant managements fail to carry out their responsibilities under these systems.

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