FSIS issues humane handling enforcement measures

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 22 - The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced several measures that will better ensure the humane treatment and slaughter of all cattle presented for processing at FSIS-inspected facilities. The new measures include:


Issuing procedures to inspection personnel to clarify that all non-ambulatory mature cattle must be condemned and promptly euthanized to ensure they are humanely handled, regardless of the reason for the animal's non-ambulatory status. The clarification is intended to ensure that the policy is consistently applied at all federally-inspected establishments by resolving any uncertainty on how inspectors should interpret existing rules. This FSIS Notice was issued 12/22/10.

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·         Responding to and soliciting comments on petitions from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Farm Sanctuary.

·         Appointing an Ombudsman in the Office of Food Safety, designated specifically for humane handling issues. The ombudsman will provide FSIS employees a channel of communication to voice their concerns when the standard reporting mechanisms do not adequately address outstanding issues.

·         Requesting the USDA Office of Inspector General audit industry appeals of noncompliance records and other humane handling enforcement actions by FSIS inspection program personnel. This will help determine whether FSIS has adequately handled humane handling violations identified by inspection personnel and challenged by an establishment. The audit will give the Agency a better picture of how well the appeals process works, and if problems are found, FSIS will take action to address them.

·         Delivering enhanced humane handling training to give inspection personnel more practical, situation-based training. Additional training modules that prepare inspectors for realistic scenarios they will face in the field will help the Agency enforce HMSA regulations more effectively and consistently.

During the last two years, FSIS has implemented a number of measures to strengthen humane handling enforcement. For example, on March 14, 2009, the USDA announced a final rule to amend Federal meat inspection regulations to require a complete ban on the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle for use in human food. FSIS also created 24 new humane handling enforcement positions, including 23 in-plant personnel and a headquarters-based Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator. Most recently, on October 14, 2010, FSIS issued draft guidelines to assist meat and poultry establishments that want to improve operations by using in-plant video monitoring.

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