March 29, 2023

FSIS extends time-limited trials until November

FSIS extends time-limited trials until November 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has extended the trial period for a study on the impact that line speeds have on workers at swine processing facilities, until November 30, 2023. 

Under the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), FSIS established a maximum line speed of 1,106 heads per hour to go into force on June 30, 2021. This came after a federal court ruling that vacated a provision of the NSIS that enabled pork processors to establish maximum line speeds. Since this ruling, many in the pork industry have asked the USDA to reconsider the decision, as it could reduce the United States’ pork-producing capacities by 2.5%. Now, FSIS is allowing swine processing facilities to operate at an increased speed. 

“The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) applauds USDA’s decision to allow eligible pork harvest facilities to continue experimenting with ergonomics, automation, and crewing while maintaining line speeds that have been proven able to protect food and worker safety for over two decades,” NPPC said in a statement

“Ensuring sufficient harvest capacity is critical to allow America’s pork producers to continue to provide wholesome pork products to consumers. This extension will allow USDA to assess a final report of the data collected during the time-limited trial and determine next steps. NPPC appreciates the extension of the trial period and will continue working with the administration and Congress towards a permanent solution,” NPPC concluded. 

NSIS establishments were invited to apply to participate in a trial in November 2021. To participate in a time-limited trial, an NSIS establishment must implement worker safety measures included in an agreement with the workers’ union or worker safety committee that represents their employees. Six establishments were approved to run time-limited trials. During these trials, approved establishments were allowed to operate at an increased line speed for a period of one year. Meanwhile, FSIS has been collecting data throughout the trial to measure the impact of increased line speeds on establishment workers. 

A team of worker safety experts is studying the impact of increased line speeds on worker safety at poultry establishments. The agency was able to expand the contract to include swine establishments. The extended time-limited trials will allow the contractors to finalize their report on the swine data, enable the agency to assess the report’s findings and conclusions, and will determine future actions.

Learn more about the time-limited trials here