The idea, laid down in the 2008 Farm Bill, will enable the plants with 25 or fewer employees to send meat and poultry products between states.
The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a proposal for a new voluntary cooperative program this week under which selected State-inspected processors will be allowed to transport meat and poultry products in what it calls “interstate commerce”.
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold Mande said: “This new cooperative interstate shipment program will provide new economic opportunities for many small and very small meat and poultry establishments, whose markets are currently limited. We can provide new markets for these establishments, while maintaining the integrity of the Federal mark of inspection.”
At present, some 27 states operate state meat or poultry inspection programmes. This is overseen and enforced by the FSIS which makes sure state programme requirements are “at least equal to” those imposed under Federal meat and poultry regulations. For these schemes, up to 50 per cent of the operating funds are met by the FSIS.
Under the proposed rule, selected premises will receive inspection services from federally trained and supervised state inspection officials. Their task will be to ensure the chosen facilities meet all Federal food safety requirements, a FSIS spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com. The new rule would see up to 60 per cent of eligible state inspection costs met by the FSIS.
Meat and poultry products shipped under the programme will be obliged to bear an official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) mark of inspection. Only those products that have this stamp will be allowed to be shipped across state lines.
“State-inspected establishments that are not selected for the voluntary cooperative program, including state-inspected establishments with more than 25 employees, are only eligible to sell and ship their products within their State”, confirmed the FSIS.
The government body is asking industry to comment on the proposals before Monday November 16through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov or by mail to: FSIS Docket Room, USDA, FSIS, OPPD, Docket Clearance Unit, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Stop 5272, Beltsville, MD 20705. All comments must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2008-0039.