Test of privatized meat inspection system called inconclusive

The Agriculture Department has not been able to prove that private sector personnel inspect poultry as thoroughly as government employees, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office. Two years ago, Agriculture developed a pilot program to reduce the number of government inspectors stationed on the slaughter line and to transfer some of their inspection duties to personnel employed by meat and poultry plants. Under the program, plant employees perform the majority of initial poultry inspections under the supervision of an inspector from the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). As part of the pilot project, FSIS inspectors at participating poultry plants examined carcasses to evaluate how well plant employees identified defects, and monitored their use of sanitation equipment. The pilot project, which compared the performance of the new system with that of the old, contained "several design and methodology limitations" that compromised the study's results, according to GAO's report (GAO-02-59). GAO questioned the reliability of data from the pilot project. The results of the project found that the new poultry inspection system worked better than the traditional method, which involves more government employees. GAO criticized Agriculture for not using a control group in the project, failing to randomly select the poultry plants that participated in the study, and not requiring inspection training for plant employees. GAO also criticized Agriculture for allowing plants that repeatedly failed to comply with regulatory requirements to participate in the pilot project.

Both Agriculture and an independent contractor gathered and measured data. According to GAO, the two sets of data produced slightly different results in areas such as the number of poultry plants that met safety standards under the new inspection system. In 1997, Agriculture adopted a new science-based system for identifying where contamination is most likely to occur during food production to improve the effectiveness of the meat and poultry inspection process. The new system, aimed at preventing contamination, makes industry more accountable for the safety of its products, while enabling the government to oversee the inspection process with fewer resources. While GAO supports Agriculture's approach to a new meat inspection system, the "design of this pilot will not permit USDA to reach conclusions about whether the new system of modified inspections performs as well as the traditional system," the report said. Despite the pilot program's inconclusive results, about 70 percent of FSIS inspectors and veterinarians who GAO surveyed believed that the new inspection system was "equal to or somewhat better" than traditional inspections, the report said. If Agriculture decides to move forward with its proposed changes to the inspection program, the agency should ensure that only plants with a good history of regulatory compliance are eligible to participate in the program and provide proper training for plant inspection personnel, GAO recommended. GAO also urged Agriculture to require plants to adopt systems to manage and control their production. Officials from the Agriculture Department agreed with GAO's recommendations.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.