U.S – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended the time-limited trials (TLTs) that previously allowed some National Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) businesses to run at a faster line speed through November 30, 2023.

A directive from the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota was issued in March 2021, overturning the portion of the USDA’s National Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) final regulation that eliminated line speed limits for participating businesses.

All NSIS facilities were consequently required to run at line speeds not to exceed 1,106 head per hour (hph).

In the same month of March 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota concluded that FSIS had broken the American Procedures Act by failing to take workers’ safety into account before accelerating line speeds.

For 90 days, the court’s injunction was put on hold while the USDA created a plan for plants that switched to NSIS.

Advocates for the pig industry, including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), had requested the USDA to rethink the decision since it would have an effect on smaller hog farmers.

Additionally, NPPC requested a stay while the appeal was being examined since it claims that the judgment to invalidate an NSIS provision undoes a decision made in 2019 to approve and install greater line speeds.

The group added that the pilot program dates back to the Clinton administration and has continued through subsequent administrations in an effort to update the inspection system that had not been updated in more than 50 years.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and FSIS collaborated to develop a TLT that has allowed NSIS establishments to experiment with ergonomics, automation, and crewing to design unique work environments that will safeguard the safety of both workers and food while preserving productivity.

Six NSIS facilities were given the go-ahead to conduct TLTs after being invited to submit an application in November 2021.

For a year, qualified businesses have been permitted to operate at a faster line speed during the trial.

To gauge how faster lines may affect establishment employees, FSIS has been gathering data throughout the pilot.

FSIS has hired a team of worker safety experts to investigate the effects of faster line speeds on worker safety in poultry facilities.

The contract was expanded by the government to cover swine facilities.

With the help of the extended TLTs, the contractors will be able to complete their report on the swine data.

The agency will then be able to evaluate the study’s findings and conclusions and decide what steps to take moving forward.

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