On August 21, 2014, USDA-FSIS published a final rule called the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” (79 FR 49566, Aug. 21, 2014) which amended the Agency’s poultry regulations to establish an inspection system for young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments, called the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). Under the final rule, the maximum line speed for young chicken slaughter establishments that operate under NPIS is 140 birds per minute. 9 C.F.R. 381.69(a). As previously covered on this blog, on September 1, 2017, the National Chicken Council (NCC) petitioned USDA-FSIS to implement a waiver system to permit young chicken slaughter establishments participating in the NPIS and the Salmonella Initiative Program to operate without the line speed limitations imposed under the NPIS.
On January 29, 2018, FSIS rejected NCC’s petition and explained that instead of establishing a separate line speed waiver program under the conditions requested in the petition, FSIS would make available criteria that it will use under its existing waiver procedures to consider individual waiver requests from young chicken establishments to operate at line speeds of up to 175 birds per minute. FSIS published these criteria in the February 23, 2018 Constituent Update, which include, among other items, meeting specific Salmonella performance standards requirements, establishing compliance with NPIS requirements, demonstrating a history of regulatory requirements, and a demonstration that new equipment, technologies, or procedures that allow the establishment to operate at faster line speeds will maintain or improve food safety.
On September 28, 2018, FSIS published additional criteria that poultry slaughter plants will have to meet in order to seek approval to run line speeds faster than the current limit of 140 birds per minute (83 FR 49048, Sept. 28, 2018). FSIS also announced that the 20 young chicken establishments already operating under line speed waivers must meet the new criteria to be eligible for the waiver. FSIS will consider factors such as whether plants are complying with good commercial practices, which requires that the poultry be slaughtered in a manner that will result in thorough bleeding.