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 (EPIA) 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, said the USDA in a press release.
The new egg inspection rule will take effect at 83 USDA-inspected eggplants as soon it is published in the Federal Register.
“Requiring egg product plants to develop food safety systems and procedures similar to meat and poultry requirements is a significant milestone in modernizing our inspection system,” said FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “FSIS is continuing to carry out its public health mission to prevent foodborne illness.”
Under the new rule, federally inspected egg products plants are required to develop and implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). FSIS will continue to test for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in egg products.
FSIS requires that plants produce egg products that meet food safety standards and are edible without additional preparation and nothing in the final rule changes those requirements.
Two egg national organizations said to Abasto Media they support USDA’s new rule.
Oscar Garrison, United Egg Producers Senior VP Food Safety Regulatory Affairs said: “U.S. egg producers and processors remain firmly committed to food safety. We recognize that USDA’s decision is based on the continuous improvement in food safety practices and standards within egg production and processing that have occurred in recent years. UEA Further Processors supports the agency’s decision because it reflects those advancements, while also recognizing the strong dedication that America’s egg farmers and further processors have to assure a safe, nutritious supply of eggs and egg products.”
Meanwhile, the American Egg Board said the USDA update of egg inspections reflects 50 years of safety progress. “America’s egg farmers are committed to always providing safe, nutritious, high-quality eggs for American families. The USDA’s final rule maintains egg farmers’ high standards and reflects more than 50 years of technological and food safety advancements in egg production. We commend the USDA’s decision to modernize food safety inspections for our nation’s egg farms and look forward to continuing to bring joy to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks with the incredibly safe, incredible egg,” stated Marc Dresner, Director of Marketing & Communications, The American Egg Board.
According to the USDA, under the HACCP system, plants will be able to tailor a food safety system that best fits their particular facility and equipment. Furthermore, by removing prescriptive regulations, egg products plants will have the flexibility and the incentive to innovate new means to achieve enhanced food safety.
In addition, FSIS will be assuming regulatory authority over egg substitutes and freeze-dried egg products, which pose the same risk as egg products and will be inspected in the same manner, enhancing the existing food safety system.
The agency has also realigned the regulations governing the importation and inspection of foreign egg products more closely with the regulations governing the importation of foreign meat and poultry products.
FSIS will notify foreign countries of the regulatory changes. Countries that have ongoing equivalence and most countries that have requested initial equivalence for egg products already have HACCP implemented for their domestic products.