The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service no longer plans to impose masking requirements at federally inspected meat processing facilities.

The move comes following new guidance issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on when masks should be worn indoors. On Tuesday, FSIS said it was rescinding a prior order issued in August that was “based on prior (CDC) guidance” following the new language from the center.

“As of the issuance of this notice, inspection program personnel (IPP) are to be aware that official establishments are no longer subject to suspension or withdrawal of inspection services for failure to require employees to wear masks when IPP are present in the facility,” FSIS declared.

In the same action, FSIS recommended facilities follow the new CDC guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But the agency also said if its employees were in facilities where additional personal protective equipment is required, “FSIS personnel are to continue to follow those requirements.” Other federal employee masking requirements remain in place.

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Patrick Robinette, who chairs the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s independent beef processing committee, said the group was “pleased that FSIS is rescinding its mask mandate for federally-inspected processing facilities.

“There are alternatives to masks, which USCA outlined in its letter to FSIS leadership last year, that can help control the spread of COVID-19 while also contributing to a safe, comfortable work environment,” he said.

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