On December 1st, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a final rule making slight changes to an earlier interim final rule to protect against highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The interim final rule prohibited or restricted importing living birds and poultry (including hatch eggs) and bird and poultry products from regions where any subtype of HPAI is considered to exist (referred to as HPAI regions).

The final rule makes two primary amendments that relax some of the interim final rule’s import restrictions along with several modest adjustments to APHIS’s import controls, although these changes are expected to have minimal direct effect on the domestic broiler industry. First, it allows zoos to import live zoological birds and poultry that have been vaccinated for avian influenza as part of an official program and under specific conditions. Second, it allows importing pigeons, doves, and other Columbiform species from HPAI regions. The final rule became effective immediately.

Click here to read more.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will soon publish in the Federal Register its long anticipated final rule modernizing the poultry slaughter inspection system. The final rule generally tracks the Agency’s January 2012 proposal with some modifications, most notably a lower line speed than proposed for chicken establishments. The new system, dubbed the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), is modeled after the Agency’s long-running HACCP Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) pilot program and is designed to give establishments more control over their slaughter and processing operations.

Click here to read more.

 

Yesterday, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a compliance guideline addressing steps meat and poultry establishments can take to control and prevent the introduction of undeclared allergens into food products. The guidance, Allergens and Ingredients of Public Health Concern: Identification, Prevention and Control, and Declaration through Labeling (the Guidelines), identifies key steps FSIS recommends establishments take to identify potential sources of foodborne allergens, prevent and control the introduction of allergens into foods, and ensure all allergens are declared on food labels. Guidelines are technically nonbinding recommendations, but FSIS considers food adulterated and misbranded if its label fails to declare any of the “Big Eight” allergens present in the food.  FSIS “recommends that establishments consider incorporating the practices set out in [the Guidelines] in their HACCP plan or Sanitation SOPs or other prerequisite programs.”

Click here to read more.

 

The Food Safety and Inspection (FSIS) will soon publish in the Federal Register its final rule expanding the scope of labels eligible for generic approval. Under the final rule, labels will be eligible for generic approval unless the product has been produced under a religious exemption, the label is for export only and contains deviations from U.S. requirements, the label bears a “special statement or claim,” or the establishment is seeking a temporary approval of a noncompliant label. The final rule will take effect 60 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register.

This post highlights areas of the final rule that provide the greatest amount of flexibility for generic approval as well as other guidance conveyed in the accompanying preamble.

Click here to read more.

On December 6, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a notice in the Federal Register that will effect several changes to the way the agency regulates not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) ground and other comminuted poultry products. Establishments producing NRTE comminuted poultry products must reassess their HACCP plans within 90 days of the notice’s publication to take into account several recent Salmonella outbreaks, the agency will expand its Salmonella verification sampling program to include non-breaded, non-battered comminuted NRTE poultry products, and the agency will apply its Category 1 performance standard to all comminuted poultry. Moreover, FSIS has announced that it will consider meat or poultry products that contain pathogens that are not considered adulterants but that are linked to an illness outbreak adulterated on the ground that they are “unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food” and would request a recall.

Click here to read more.

Tomorrow, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will publish a final rule, Additional Changes to the Schedule of Operations Regulations, expanding FSIS inspectors’ standard 8-hour workday to include time needed to prepare the inspection station, retrieve and return lot tally sheets, sharpen knives, and conduct duties scheduled by FSIS, including administrative activities. Establishments receiving inspection will need to incorporate time for these activities into their schedules of operations or incur overtime inspection charges. The rule will take effect 60 days after it is published; an advance copy of the final rule is attached. This expansion of an inspector’s compensable activities comes on the heels of last year’s final rule requiring that donning and doffing activities be included in an inspector’s standard tour of duty.

Click here to read more.

 

FSIS has released a brief Q&A addressing issues related to the new requirement that establishments report to their district offices all instances of adulterated or misbranded products within 24 hours of learning or determining that products have entered commerce. The reporting requirement applies for products received by or originating from an establishment. 9 C.F.R. § 418.2. In FSIS Notice 34-12, the agency reiterated the rule’s basic requirements and indicated establishments were to begin complying on June 7, 2012.  The recently released Q&A document clarifies the agency’s understanding of when a product is “in commerce” and provides some insight into situations the agency considers reportable.

Click here to read more.

On December 29, 2010, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a final rule that requires nutrition labeling for single-ingredient meat and poultry products. Under the new rule, major cuts of meat and poultry and ground or chopped meat and poultry products will have to be accompanied by nutrition information. The labeling requirements differ for the major cuts and for the ground and chopped products. Failure to provide this mandatory information will render the product misbranded. The new rule also permits ground or chopped meat and poultry products that do not qualify for a low-fat claim to bear a lean percentage claim. These changes will become effective January 1, 2012. This post summarizes the new rule’s labeling requirements.

Click here to read more.