FSIS Finalizes Rules Mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill

May 14, 2012

By Riëtte van Laack

On May 8, 2012, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) published three sets of regulations mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill: (1) regulations requiring that meat and poultry plants promptly (within 24 hrs) notify FSIS that a contaminated or misbranded product has been released into commerce; (2) regulations requiring that meat and poultry plants prepare written recall procedures; and (3) regulations that require that plants document the mandatory annual reassessment of their HACCP plans, and the reason for actions taken pursuant to that reassessment.  The final regulations are similar to the proposed regulations published in 2010 (see our previous post here). 

Although the requirement to notify FSIS of the release into commerce of a contaminated product resembles the reporting duty under the Reportable Food Registry for foods under FDA jurisdiction, FSIS’s regulation is broader.  The reporting duty applies to any violation, including misbranding, and is not limited to only those instances that involve a reasonable probability of serious adverse health consequences or death.  Reporting, however, can be done by a phone call, e-mail, fax or other communication method.

Under the new regulations, any new meat or poultry plant must develop written recall procedures in order to receive a Federal Grant of Inspection.  The compliance date for already existing facilities depends on the size of the plant.  Plants with 500 or more employees have six months to develop their written recall procedures and plants with less than 500 employees have 12 months to develop such procedures.  FSIS intends to make model recall procedures available.

Current regulations require that meat and poultry plants reassess their HACCP plans at least once a year.  The new requirement to prepare written documentation about this reassessment is added to aid FSIS verification that plants comply with the regulations.  Moreover, FSIS anticipates that this documentation will aid in identifying emerging issues and provide assurance that plants address emerging hazards that the Agency identifies during the year.

The requirements for prompt notification and written recall procedures are expected to help facilitate the prompt removal of unsafe meat and poultry products from commerce.