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USDA proposes to amend egg product inspection regulations

FSIS proposes to more closely align import requirements for eggs and egg products with import requirements for meat and poultry products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing to require official plants that process egg products to develop and implement hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) systems and sanitation standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

Overall, the 254-page rule proposes to align the import requirements for eggs and egg products more closely with the import requirements for meat and poultry products. The proposed rule aims to modernize food safety inspection systems at egg products plants. Under the HACCP system, plants will be able to tailor a food safety system that best fits their particular facility and equipment. Furthermore, by removing prescriptive regulations, egg product plants will have the flexibility and the incentive to innovate new means to achieve enhanced food safety.

The rule has been in the works for years and is viewed favorably by those in the industry because it offers some improved efficiencies and a vast majority of the product plants have HACCP plans in place already.

“Egg processors share USDA’s commitment to advancing workable, effective food safety programs. Our products are pasteurized to ensure food safety,” said Oscar Garrison, United Egg Producers senior vice president, food safety regulatory affairs.

The impact cost for the proposed rule is mitigated by the fact that 93% of egg products plants already use a written HACCP plan that addresses at least one production step in their process while also alleviating the unnecessary costs associated with the current prescriptive regulations. Net benefits range from $3.389 million on the low range to losses of $703,000 on the high range.

FSIS is proposing to eliminate current regulatory provisions that are inconsistent with HACCP. “This is a good move,” Ken Klippen, president of the National Association of Egg Farmers, said.

In addition, FSIS is proposing to provide for generic approval as part of the prior label approval system for egg products and make changes to labeling requirements for shell eggs consistent with those in the Food & Drug Administration’s regulations.

The proposed rule suggests changing the agency’s interpretation of the requirement for continuous inspection. The industry is estimated to see cost savings from the rule, including cost savings from the elimination of overtime and holiday pay provided to FSIS inspectors for inspection. The agency also sees salary savings for the reduction in inspection at egg products plants.

There are long-term benefits from improved inspection personnel coverage as well. Egg product inspection personnel will now be trained under a HACCP system and can be positioned for inspection in traditional meat and poultry establishments.

In addition, FSIS will be further fortifying the safety of the American consumer by taking over jurisdiction of egg substitutes, which pose the same risk as egg products and will be treated with the same level of scrutiny and care.

“As we continue to modernize inspection systems and processes, we are committed to strengthening consistency across the services that FSIS inspection personnel carry out for the consuming public," acting deputy undersecretary for food safety Carmen Rottenberg said. “This proposed rule will ensure the same level of inspection and oversight of all regulated products as we carry out our public health mission."

There will be a 120-day period for comment once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

“This is a complex, 254-page proposed rule with detailed measures related to converting to a HACCP-based inspection system,” Garrison added. “Our members will rely on the scheduled comment period to conduct an intensive internal review and will provide our collective comments to the agency.”

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