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.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to: (1) make periodic unannounced inspections of meat and poultry processing plants; (2) require meat and poultry processing plants to develop and implement quality-control systems; and (3) withdraw inspection or impose civil penalties of up to $100,000 for processing plants failing to take appropriate action when the quality-control system identifies a deficiency or when plants fail to comply with inspection requirements. If Congress amends the acts, the Secretary should develop criteria for deciding the optimal inspection frequency for individual processing plants and for assessing penalties within the provisions of the acts. The Secretary should, in cooperation with industry, develop criteria for determining the quality-control systems needed at various types and sizes of processing plants.


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