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Inspection and Enforcement Activities At Swine Slaughter Plants

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page and our CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

OIG audited FSIS' inspection and enforcement activities at swine slaughter plants to determine if they complied with food safety and humane handling laws.

What Were OIG's Objectives

Our objectives were to identify areas of risk in FSIS' inspection of swine plants, evaluate FSIS' controls over food safety and humane handling, and determine if appropriate enforcement actions were taken against plants that violated FMIA and HMSA.

What OIG Reviewed

FSIS inspects over 600 plants that have grants to slaughter swine. For fiscal years 2008 - 2011 , w e reviewed enforcement actions taken against these plants . We also condResearch Cenand its suitability as a permanent program. FSIS should also provide a plan on how it will minimize reliance on the inspectors' judgment to ensure they consistently enforce laws .    

What OIG Found

The Food Safety and Inspection Service's (tSIS) enforcement policies do not deter swine slaughter plants from becoming repeat violators of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). As a result, plants have repeatedly violated the same regulations with littl e or no consequence. We found that in 8 of the 30 plants we visited, inspectors did not always examine the internal organs of carcasses in accordance with FSIS inspection requirements, or did not take enforcement actions against plants that violated food safety regulations. As a result, there is reduced assurance of FSIS inspectors effectively identifying pork that should not enter the food supply.

We also found FSIS could not determine whether the goals of a pilot program - Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) - based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) - were met because FSIS did not adequately oversee the program. In the 15 years since the program's inception, FSIS did not critically assess whether the new inspection process had measurably impr oved food safety at each HIMP plant, a key goal of the program.

Finally, we found that FSIS inspectors did not take appropriate enforcement action s at 8 of the 30 swine slaughter plants we visited for violations of the Humane Method of Slaughter Act (HMSA ). We reviewed 158 humane handling noncompliance records (violations) issued to the 30 plants and found 10 instances of egregious violations where inspectors did not issue suspensions. As a result, the plants did not improve their slaughter practices, an d FSIS could not ensure humane handling of swine. FSIS concurred with all of our recommendations .    
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