Earlier this year, the Food Safety and Inspection Service began posting notices of humane-handling enforcement actions taken at federally inspected slaughter establishments.  This was part of several significant steps FSIS has taken to increase transparency in the reporting of agency activities in food safety and animal handling in recent years.

Although such transparency has the potential to make companies uncomfortable, that same discomfort can serve as additional motivation to do what it takes to stay in constant compliance with humane slaughter and handling regulations.

Since the beginning of February, all Notices of Intended Enforcement (NOIE), Notices of Suspension and related documents regarding humane-handling violations have been provided for open access to the public on the FSIS’ Web site.  As of July 20, 26 NOIEs and Notices of Suspension were issued for violations of 9 CFR 313.

Reviewing these notices underscores the importance of two factors in assuring humane handling and stunning of livestock: equipment and training.  In nearly all of the corrective actions taken by plants that received NOIEs or Notices of Suspension, changes in equipment or equipment maintenance schedules were identified as appropriate corrective actions.

In addition, employee training was commonly implemented or updated.  The majority of slaughter operations have implemented training and maintenance programs to assure that animals are humanely handled and stunned by competent personnel.  A focus on continuous improvement in humane handling can help to maintain animal welfare and prevent the embarrassment of a humane-handling violation in your facility reaching the public eye.

Any time that a move is made to increase transparency, the entity that takes the first step does not avoid risk.  Just as slaughter establishments must pay close attention to humane handling and stunning to avoid enforcement action, FSIS personnel must recognize that enforcement actions that are taken must be legitimate and clearly documented.

Allowing the public to easily access humane-handling violation documents places additional pressure on FSIS personnel to be completely sure they are taking appropriate action. This move toward transparency will help to improve accountability on both sides of the establishment / inspection relationship.

To access FSIS reporting of humane-handling enforcement actions and sign up for e-mail notification of updated enforcement actions, go to: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/Humane_Handling_Enforcement_Actions/index.asp