“The National Chicken Council and our members believe a statistically valid, scientifically-based approach to poultry processing will improve food safety and better protect public health,” according to comments filed Tuesday by NCC in response to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) proposed poultry inspection rule.  After a 30-day extension, Tuesday marked the end of the official comment period.  FSIS is now reviewing thousands of comments before it issues a final rule.

NCC in its comments noted its support of efforts to modernize the poultry slaughter inspection system to more closely reflect Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles by focusing inspection on food-safety outcomes.

NCC also stated the proposal’s success depends on making additional clarifications to the proposal and in illustrating how the rule would be implemented.

Specifically, NCC’s comments recommend necessary implementation procedures; address the proposed sampling requirements; recommend changes to the inspection process for ready-to-cook (RTC) standards; explain why avian leukosis is not a condition of public health concern;  recommend special training regarding septicemic and toxemic conditions; explain why line speed should not be arbitrarily limited; address worker safety concerns; request clarification regarding online and offline antimicrobial use; and address chilling requirements.

NCC comments also addressed worker safety concerns.

“NCC and our member companies also take seriously the health and safety of our workers,” the comments continued.  “We are confident the increased line speeds allowed under the proposed rule have been demonstrated over several years to be safe for workers in the broiler chicken industry.”

A recent survey of broiler establishments participating in the pilot project show, for both Total Recordable Injury Rates and Days Away/Restricted or Transfer Rates (DART), that these plants are as safe for workers as plants that operate under traditional inspection.  In fact, the data indicate that there is no statistical difference between plants involved in the HIMP pilot project and traditional inspected facilities with regards to Total Recordable Injury Rates and DART Rates.  Specifically, in 2009 and 2010, total recordable injury rates in establishments participating in the pilot project were 5.6 and 5.3, respectively.  Industry average was 6.1 and 5.5 in 2009 and 2010, respectively.  In 2009 and 2010, DART rates in establishments participating in the pilot project were 3.4 and 3.9, respectively.  Industry average was 4.0 and 3.9 in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

“As a result, NCC is confident that modernizing the poultry inspection system will not endanger our workforce,” NCC said.  “Whether plants are operating in the HIMP pilot project or under traditional inspection, the chicken industry continues to improve its record for the health and wellness of its workforce, decreasing its injury and illness rate 74 percent since 1994.

“NCC and our members are committed to poultry production operations that ensure a safe, wholesome and abundant supply of poultry products for both domestic and international markets, and the poultry slaughter inspection system plays an important role in this process.”

A copy of NCC’s press release issued Tuesday, which contains a link to the comments in their entirety, can be viewed by clicking here.