The proposed system would allow trained plant employees to check carcases for defects and perform other quality-assurance checks to ensure that carcases are not adulterated before they enter the chilling tank.
According to the National Chicken Council (NCC), which welcomed the move, the voluntary system would free up some federal inspectors to focus more on food safety-related tasks, such as oversight and verification, microbiological testing for pathogens such as salmonella, sanitation standards, and antimicrobial controls in the plant.
It would be available initially to only young chicken and turkey establishments – those that slaughter broilers, fryers and roasters – while Cornish game hens would also be considered as "young chicken establishments", according to FSIS, which estimated that more than 5,200 foodborne illnesses could be prevented every year if the proposals were to be implemented.
Mike Brown, president, NCC, said: "In an effort to continue our progress towards reducing foodborne illnesses, we believe, along with food safety experts, that the poultry inspection system should be modernised and transitioned to a model that is more science- and risk-based."
"Not only will this system build on our food safety progress, if fully implemented, it will create jobs," continued Brown, adding that the NCC looked forward to reviewing the final rule in its entirety.
Joel Brandenberger, president, National Turkey Federation (NTF), said it was pleased to see that the rule had been submitted to the Office of Budget and Management for final review. "Because draft documents under review are considered deliberative and not available for public release, NTF has not seen the final rule, but did submit comments in support of the proposed rule. That draft detailed a modern, sensible approach that will allow food safety inspectors to focus more closely on public health. Further, it described a revamped inspection system that would allow federal inspectors to shift to prevention-oriented inspection systems and redeploy resources in a manner that better protects the public from foodborne diseases."
The OIRA’s review of the rule is the last step in the process, before it enters the Federal Register. It was originally proposed on 27 January 2012.