August 31, 2000


FROM: Rosemary Mucklow

RE: HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP)

The Government Accountability Project (GAP), joined by Public Citizen, the National Joint Council of Food Inspectors Locals, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the Cattlemen’s Legal Fund (apparently R-CALF) have scheduled a news conference to release a new report detailing food inspectors’ experiences with the Clinton-Gore administration’s meat inspection system on Tuesday, September 5 in Washington, DC.

The Media Advisory issued by the groups suggest that the news conference will rely heavily on anecdotal information from individual and usually unnamed inspectors that denigrates the inspection system, and thereby undermines consumer confidence in meat and poultry products. The Media Advisory also states that the groups will discuss "continuing attempts by the USDA to privatize the slaughtering inspection system." This suggests that they will once again discredit the effectiveness of of HACCP and the HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP). HIMP is being tested in plants that slaughter young chickens, turkeys and market hogs. This is the project where certain tasks previously performed by inspectors are now being performed by plant employees under the direct supervision of FSIS personnel. Reports from FSIS have shown that end products are superior under the new system. HIMP has been a major initiative of USDA in the past 18 months. No beef slaughter plants are in HIMP.

NMA’s position is that major initiatives have been at work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal meat and poultry inspection system since the mid-1980s. NMA has supported system improvements that incorporate efficient use of tax-funded resources so long as they in no way diminish the wholesomeness and safety of the end products. NMA supported legislative changes in the mid-1980s, it supported the development of task-oriented inspector assignments and related system changes, it supported the need to incorporate science-based technological changes in inspection systems, it supported the HACCP rule, and it supported initiatives like HIMP which aims to convert young, healthy chickens, turkeys and market hogs into wholesome, safe poultry and meat. Such projects will help to demonstrate ways to modernize the inspection system.

The types of system changes being undertaken are challenging mostly to those directly involved. The nature of work assignments of both inspectors and company employees are changing under HIMP. Unfortunately, some people find change threatening to their job security. Often, they will try to hold on to that which they can do by rote, rather than learn new tasks.

NMA is willing and prepared to engage in discussions with all interested parties about how to effectively incorporate improvements in the inspection system that are based on science and technology. NMA is mindful that the Federal Meat Inspection Act, in particular, looks not only to assuring that livestock are dressed and converted into food under sanitary operating conditions, but also that there are substantial requirements expressed in great detail in the Code of Federal Regulations that require federal oversight to assure such livestock is indeed fit for the food supply. NMA believes that the current ante and post mortem inspection requirements continue that assure fitness for foods to be an important and valid primary consumer protection activity of the federal inspection system.

NMA’s Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow serves as a member of the Meat & Poultry Advisory Committee. In that position, she has supported system changes in accordance with the above policy. Also, as the chief spokesperson for NMA, she wholeheartedly supports open discussion and dialogue about how to make system changes effectively and efficiently. However, frenetic attacks based on anecdotal and fragmented information collected at random from a small number of surveys returned to GAP out of many hundreds that were mailed, and then packaged as a "report" by self-seeking organizations are a great disservice to the interests of consumers who eat meat and poultry, to all those in the production and processing chain, and to the public employees who work diligently to carry out their duties on a daily basis.