Court OKs Hog Carcass Inspection Rule

Oct. 4, 2022
Critics argued that it gives too much responsibility to company-employed inspectors.

A controversial regulation allowing plant personnel to conduct some safety inspections inside pork plants has been upheld by a federal court in California.

The regulation, promulgated in 2019, allows company employees to make an initial inspection of hog carcasses for safety issues. Several consumer and environmental advocacy groups sued to overturn it the following year.

The self-inspection concept, called “HACCP-based Models Program” (HIMP), was instituted on a trial basis in the late 1990s. A federal court in Washington, D.C. struck it down in 2000 for not conforming with federal law. The USDA revised the program to establish USDA inspectors at three or more fixed locations to examine head, carcass and viscera; this passed muster with the D.C. court.

The plaintiffs in the current lawsuit argued that despite the revisions, the rule impermissibly transfers responsibility for product safety away from USDA inspectors. However, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled Sept. 30 that it conforms to the Federal Meat Inspection Act and other applicable law. White granted USDA’s motion for summary judgment.

The lawsuit challenged various aspects of the regulation, including the lifting of limits on line speeds. But White ruled that the meat inspection act “does not require a specific inspection speed limit” and that the USDA “has shown good reasons for the policy.”

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