WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Meat industry groups have reached an agreement with the Clinton administration and Congress on implementing new rules for meat and poultry inspections.
Under the agreement, which heads off a potentially contentious debate in the House, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman will meet with the meat industry, producers, the scientific community as well as consumers and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, to discuss new rules on meat inspection under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points inspection system.
The climate for confrontation over meat and poultry inspection reform was heightened when Rep. Jim Walsh, R-N.Y., inserted language in the agriculture appropriations bill that would have forced the department to rewrite its rules on inspection following a process of negotiations with the industry and other groups.
Opponents of that measure, including Glickman, charged that Walsh's plan would delay revision of meat inspection rules. Industry groups, meanwhile, had hailed the Walsh provision as giving them a say in the decision-making process.
The new compromise is now being praised by a group of industry associations, which in a statement claimed that it will "bring interested parties together over a period of time to work out concerns related to the proposed 'mega reg.'
"Given the magnitude of reform needed in the current meat and poultry inspection system, it is critical that all parties be heard equally and that all policy decisions be based on science, not politics," the statement from the industry groups said.
"We believe the agreement will help ensure that the new meat and poultry inspection regulations are practical, scientific and broadly supported. Ultimately, this
process will speed implementation of a new inspection program," the statement concluded.
Industry groups responsible for the statement include the National-American Wholesale Grocers' Association, American Meat Institute, Grocery Manufacturers of America, National Cattlemen's Association, National Broiler Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, National Meat Association and American Association of Meat Processors.
Officials at NAWGA, the association representing grocery wholesalers, would not comment further on the specific implications the agreement has for its constituency.
Walsh said the meetings planned by Glickman would create "a record upon which a final rule is based. The compromise calls for an extension of the rule-making process that will not delay implementation. We never called for a delay. We want all parties at the table, and we have a compromise that will allow that."
In a July 18 letter to Walsh, Glickman said, "While the adoption of an HACCP-based inspection system is needed, it is also important to address the integration of the new HACCP system into the current meat and poultry inspection system. I fully understand the importance of preventing bureaucratic layering and ensuring the best utilization of public and private funds."
Glickman went on to say that the FSIS will soon publish a set of rule-making notices to review current FSIS regulations, directives, policy notices and policy memoranda. "To be consistent with the HACCP-based inspection system, USDA will then review, revise or repeal its existing regulations as needed. I have directed FSIS to accelerate its work in this area," Glickman said in his letter.