Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the proposal of a new rule--the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS)--that would overhaul current legislation for meat inspection at pork processing plants.

If NSIS goes into effect, the proposed rule would permit hog slaughtering plant to choose whether or not they participate in a new inspection system--one that is more efficient and modernized. NSIS would require plant workers to recognize and ultimately remove any carcasses deemed unfit as they come down the processing line. These plants that opt in to the new system would be exempt from having to abide by the maximum line speed requirement, currently set at 1,106 hogs per hour.

Consumer advocates are not pleased with NSIS, claiming that it will have negative effects on both food safety and worker safety. Since these plants will no longer have to adhere to line speed limits, they will likely be processing more hogs--and doing so much faster than before. Consumer advocates say this will put workers in serious danger of injuries, and it will increase food contamination with the processing line moving more quickly.

The other issue at hand is the reduced presence of USDA inspectors at plants that opt in to NSIS. Less oversight will leave hog slaughtering plants to govern themselves, which could lead to a number of safety issues without consistent federal guidance in place anymore.

A pilot program has already been in place with a small number of hog plants participating. However, reports claim that the program’s effectiveness is still unknown because USDA inspectors were not consistently present to document safety changes or trends at those participating plants.

USDA, however, has said that worker safety did improve during the pilot program based on data gathered between 2002 and 2015.

“There is no single technology or process to address the problem of food-borne illness, but when we focus our inspections on food safety-related tasks, we better protect American families,” says Carmen Rottenberg, USDA’s acting deputy undersecretary for food safety.

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