Changes to how pork slaughter plants could be regulated are going forward after a mere 21 years in the making.
President Donald Trump’s Administration has approved a final rule that had its origin during President Bill Clinton’s Administration.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) isn’t known for rapid change, but few initiatives have taken longer than the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project, otherwise known as HIMP.
Approval of the Modernization of the Swine Slaughter Inspection Rule, based on HIMP, by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is the last step in the rulemaking process.
HIMP, first announced in 1997, was a project to test new models for inspecting specific meat and poultry products. Five major pork plants participated in efficacy testing. Production workers in HIMP plants were responsible for organoleptic checks, allowing FSIS inspection personnel to focus on food safety verification checks.
The pork rule follows the previous adoption of a voluntary HIMP rule for the poultry industry. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the new HIMP-based control because it is expected to improve the federal inspection process and bring about the adoption of new food safety technologies.
HIMP was controversial from the start with the meat inspectors union and its allies. Over the years, they’ve argued the change puts too much power in the hands of the regulated slaughter businesses.
In 2001-02, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) took its challenge of the HIMP all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
In its lengthy history, FSIS continued to pursue HIMP “because the agency believes that the project has been shown to improve food safety and other consumer protections…” “The new models capitalize on the food safety and other consumer protection gains garnered by the HIMP project thus fair, while still meeting the demands of inspection laws,” according to the HIMP history published by FSIS.