USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today in the Federal Register issued a notice responding to comments received on NCC’s petition to permit waivers of the maximum line speeds for young chicken establishments operating under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), which FSIS denied earlier this year. 

Instead, FSIS issued criteria it would use under existing waiver procedures to consider waiver requests to operate at line speeds of up to 175 bpm.  The Federal Register notice identifies additional criteria establishments must satisfy (in addition to the original criteria) to be eligible to receive a waiver, and it explains that the 20 establishments currently operating under a line speed waiver must meet these new criteria within approximately 120 days.

February 2018 Criteria 

FSIS explained in the February 2018 Constituent Update that to be eligible for a line speed waiver, a young chicken establishment:

  • Must have been operating under the NPIS for at least one year, during which time it has been in compliance with all NPIS requirements;
  • Must be in Salmonella performance standard category 1 or 2 for young chicken carcasses;
  • Must have a demonstrated history of regulatory compliance. More specifically, the establishment has not received a public health alert for the last 120 days; has not had an enforcement action as a result of a Food Safety Assessment (FSA) conducted in the last 120 days; and has not been the subject of a public health related enforcement action in the last 120 days; and
  • Must be able to demonstrate that the new equipment, technologies, or procedures that allow the establishment to operate at faster line speeds will maintain or improve food safety.

In addition, FSIS explained that the waiver request submission will need to include documentation that:

  • Provides details about the establishment’s HACCP system, including how the establishment addresses the inhibition and reduction of Salmonella;
  • Demonstrates that the establishment has effective process control by submitting one year of microbial data, methodology for evaluating that microbial data (e.g., indicator organism data in a process control chart identifying upper and lower control limits), correlation of that microbial data to the establishment’s sanitary dressing process control data, correlation of that microbial data to FSIS’s Salmonella data, and interventions to address seasonality;
  • Describes how existing or new equipment, technologies, or procedures will allow for the operation at a faster line speed (e.g., descriptions or names of the equipment, line configuration, and verification activities that will be used);
  • Provides support on how the increased line speed will not negatively impact FSIS employee safety nor interfere with inspection procedures (e.g., information about safety protocols or line configuration);
  • Supports how the modifications to its food safety system to operate at the faster line speed will maintain or improve food safety (e.g., a statement that explains how the new equipment will provide the same as or cleaner evisceration processes, or how an improved line configuration will continue to prevent cross contamination); and
  • Indicates the type of records that will be maintained in the new process, including the collection of information that will assist FSIS in performing appropriate rule-making analysis (e.g., laboratory results, weekly or monthly summary production reports, or evaluations from inspection program personnel).

Additional Criteria Identified in Today’s Notice

Today’s notice identifies the following additional criteria that must be satisfied to receive a line speed waiver:

  • Compliance with GCPs: FSIS is adding compliance with good commercial practices (GCPs) to the criteria that the Agency will use to consider line speed waiver requests submitted by NPIS young chicken slaughter establishments.  To be eligible for a line speed waiver, establishments must also have not had an NR for violation of GCPs (9 CFR 381.65(b)) in the past 120 days.
  • APC Testing: FSIS also will require establishments with  line speed waivers to conduct daily Aerobic Plate Count (APC) testing, instead of weekly testing for indicator organisms, and to make the results available to FSIS.  This testing will provide additional data for consideration by FSIS when it determines whether rulemaking for young chicken slaughter line speeds is supported.
  • Participation in SIP:  Consistent with the waiver granted to the 20 HIMP young chicken establishments to operate at up to 175 bpm, any additional NPIS establishments that are granted a line speed waiver will need to participate in the SIP as a condition of their waivers.  Establishments operating under a line speed waiver will need to identify the line speed they were operating under when they collected the microbial data required under the SIP and include the line speed when they submit their SIP data to FSIS. FSIS intends to use a six-month moving window approach to determine the establishment’s average line speed based on the line speeds recorded as part of the SIP data.