Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) today toured Paris Frozen Foods in Hillsboro to discuss efforts he took in Congress to oppose proposed changes to testing that USDA would require at small meatpacking facilities. Hare took action after receiving nearly 850 letters from his constituents.
Under current law, plants are required to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for their slaughter and/or processing operations. Essentially, a plant must identify each point in the process where contamination could occur, called a "critical control point," have a plan to control it, and document and maintain records. Under HACCP regulations, all operations must have site-specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for sanitation. USDA inspectors check records to verify a plant's compliance.
In March 2010, USDA proposed additional costly testing requirements--specifically microbial testing--and further measures on HACCP System Validation. This unnecessary and excessive testing would cause unnecessary financial hardship for small meatpacking facilities like Paris Frozen Foods and jeopardize the variety of meats available to the public.
Hare worked with USDA on the issue and asked them to address the impact on our small businesses. The USDA reconsidered its proposed changes and clarified its intent. The revised guidance does not impose new requirements, but rather aims to clarify existing requirements and explore how processing plants can increase the necessary compliance. Expensive new testing procedures, such as microbial testing, are not included in this new draft and are not required.
USDA is currently in the process of reviewing the remaining public comments. USDA has set a goal of reviewing all of the comments and making revisions to the validation guidance document by November or December of 2010.
"I support common sense regulations that protect our consumers from corporate malfeasance," Hare said. "What I oppose is placing unnecessary burdens on our small businesses. Due to the diligence of my constituents for bringing this matter to my attention, we were able to get a resolution that works for everyone."