Food Inspection Basics: Meat and Poultry

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food inspectionWhen it comes to food inspection, efficiency and effectiveness are crucial. This is particularly true when it comes to food products like meat and poultry. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is in charge of making sure these food products are handled and labeled safely. This article is going to provide an overview of food inspection basics.

Nationwide, FSIS employs 8,000 in-plant and other frontline personnel who are in charge of protecting public health in 6,200 federally inspected establishments. Within this industry, FSIS is responsible for:

  • Inspecting animal carcasses
  • Setting food safety standards
  • Verifying that standards are being followed
  • Maintaining a strong enforcement program

If FSIS personnel are not present, slaughter facilities cannot conduct slaughter operations. Additionally, because of strict regulations, any products that are to be exported to foreign countries must go through federal food inspection systems.

At all federally inspected meat and poultry slaughter facilities, FSIS conducts carcass-by-carcass inspection. Furthermore, this personnel verifies that the establishments are following required food safety and humane handling methods. All regulations pertaining to slaughter and process operations must be followed, as well as proper sanitation procedures.

For cattle slaughter and processing establishments, it is required that the facility maintains written procedures for removing and disposing of specified risk materials (SRMs). SRMs could potentially carry the material associated with mad cow disease. Because of that, it's vital that these materials do not enter the food supply. SRMs may include the brain, skull, eyes, spinal cord, trigeminal ganglia, and vertebral column of cattle over the age of 30 months.

When live animals arrive at a facility, FSIS personnel may inspect trucks offloading the animals, including any areas they are kept before the slaughter operation begins. Under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, cattle, calves, mules, horses, sheep, swine, goats, and any other livestock must be handled and slaughtered in a humane manner.

Facilities are also responsible for the proper storage of their food products. Because cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing, food should be stored in refrigerators below 40ºF and in freezers set at 0ºF. Additionally, there are guidelines regarding how quickly product need to be refrigerated and what kind of food packaging it is in.

Because meat and poultry can easily become exposed to foodborne diseases, strict regulations are required throughout the industry. From the moment the livestock arrives up until the meat is packaged and sent to stores, facilities need to follow food inspection regulations in order to ensure the well-being of the livestock and the safety of the public.