On September 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it is modernizing egg products inspection methods for the first time since Congress passed the Egg Products Inspection Act in 1970. The Egg Products Inspection Regulations final rule aligns the egg products regulations to be consistent with current requirements in the meat and poultry products inspection regulations. The new rule took effect immediately.
Under the new rule, federally inspected egg products plants are required to develop and implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems. USDA has stated that under the HACCP system, plants will be able to tailor a food safety system that best fits their particular facility and equipment. This new rule will also require federally inspected egg products plants to develop Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). USDA noted that “by removing prescriptive regulations, egg products plants will have the flexibility and the incentive to innovate new means to achieve enhanced food safety.” FSIS will continue to test for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in egg products.
Previous USDA regulations required inspectors to be present whenever egg products were being processed. Under this new rule, inspectors must visit federally inspected egg products plants only once per shift. Paul Kiecker, FSIS administrator, noted that inspectors will now operate under a “patrol system,” in which they will cover multiple plants each day.
Notably, USDA will also assume oversight from the Food and Drug Administration of additional facilities that produce egg substitutes. This new egg inspection rule is intended to help egg producers recover from the losses they experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, consumer advocates argue that food safety might suffer as a result.