For Immediate Release

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Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; drakestraw@fwwatch.org

Suspension of New Poultry Inspection System Plant Shows that Privatized Inspection is a Failure

WASHINGTON - Today, advocacy group Food & Water Watch released a letter from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) notifying one of the original plants in the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) – which piloted what was to become the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) that was implemented in 2014 – that the agency was withdrawing inspection, effectively stopping the plant from operating for one shift. The agency cited food safety violations the Mar-Jac Poultry plant located in Hattiesburg, MS (Establishment P517) had consistently failed to address.

“This document shows what a sham this privatized inspection scheme really is,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “FSIS now wants to extend this disastrous model to hog slaughter arguing that it will be similar to what it implemented under NPIS. But the program’s track record shows that it’s not just a bad idea in theory—it is also a bad idea in practice.”

HIMP reduced the number of FSIS inspectors on the slaughter line and replaced them with company employees. Mar-Jac was one of the pilot plants under NPIS that was permitted to continue to operate its slaughter line speed at 175 birds per minute. Newly converted NPIS plants can operate their lines up to 140 birds per minute, but USDA is now on the verge of implementing a line speed waiver procedure to permit more chicken plants operating under NPIS to increase their lines speeds to 175 birds per minute.

In the FSIS letter to Mar-Jac, the following regulatory violations were detailed:

Food Safety Plan

  • The plant had a deficient Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan that failed to identify food safety hazards likely to occur in the plant’s operations and control measures to mitigate for those hazards;
  • The HACCP plan did not have validated processes and there was inadequate verification by the plant to determine whether the plan was being implemented properly.

Pathogen Standards

  • The plant failed the FSIS Salmonella performance standard for poultry parts, indicating that the plant was out of “process control;”
  • The plant’s microbial monitoring procedure was not validated.

Contamination

  • The plant had repeated violations of feces-contaminated carcasses entering the plant’s chiller units;
  • There were deficient procedures to divert carcasses that were contaminated with feces and ingesta for reprocessing;
  • There were no written sorting procedures to reprocess contaminated carcasses.

Sanitation

  • There were systemic violations of the plant’s Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures and the FSIS Sanitation Performance Standards, including repeated sanitation violations in the evisceration room indicating that there was lack of plant employee training to deal with those issues;
  • There were repeated sanitation violations during pre-operational inspections;
  • There was lack of recordkeeping to document whether corrective actions were taken to deal with sanitation violations;
  • Establishment grounds were not maintained in a sanitary manner;
  • There was overall disrepair of the floors in the facility;
  • The plant failed to control the formation of condensation over food contact surfaces.

Other Violations

  • There was a failure to comply with regulatory waivers under the Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) to run slaughter line speed at 175 birds per minute;
  • Corrective actions for temperature control of product were not taken in a timely manner;
  • In several instances, FSIS inspectors stopped the shipment of product that had been previously deemed unsafe during the production process.

The plant was permitted to resume operations only after it submitted a corrective action plan that is still being implemented. According to agency officials, it is still permitted to operate its slaughter line speed up to 175 birds per minute.

“The agency should scrap NPIS and withdraw its reckless proposed rule on the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System,” added Hauter. “Removing trained government inspectors from slaughter lines is a recipe for disaster.”

The letter can be accessed here: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/final_signed_notice_of_suspension_mar_jac_est._517_-_copy.pdf

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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