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Meat Inspection Basics

All meat sold in the United States undergoes an inspection process. Who is in charge of this?  What do they inspect?  Find some answers below.  If you have any other questions, submit them to us here.

Who is in charge of meat inspection in the United States?

The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture is in charge of inspection of meat, poultry and processed eggs.  Animals cannot be processed without an FSIS official present.  The Food and Drug Administration is in charge of inspection of all other foods (e.g., produce, most processed foods, etc.).

What is the inspection process?

When animals enter a processing facility, FSIS personnel look to see that animals are handled humanely.  They also begin to inspect animals to determine if any of them are sick.  Sick animals are removed before further inspection from a veterinarian.  Finally, FSIS personnel oversee the stunning and exsanguination process to make sure that it meets the Humane Slaughter Act guidelines. 

FSIS personnel are also stationed throughout the processing line and look for diseased or damaged carcasses which are removed.  They also collect random samples to test for contamination.

All meat processors in the United States are required by law to develop and implement an FSIS-approved Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program (HACCP).  To comply with HACCP, processors must conduct a comprehensive risk analysis to: 1) identify all areas and points where meat or carcasses could be contaminated; and 2) the measures the facility will undertake to effectively limit contamination at each of these points.  Here again, FSIS inspectors monitor the facility to ensure that the HACCP program is effective and followed correctly.

What happens if a processor violates any of these regulations?

Failure to treat and euthanize animals humanely, maintain sanitary facilities or follow and implement the approved HACCP program can result in fines and the suspension of all processing.

What are "state inspectors"?

If meat is only to be sold within the state, meat inspection can be done by state inspectors. Their inspection process is the same as the federal inspection process.  

Learn more about the Food Safety Inspection Service and what it does here.

Have any questions? Submit them to us here.

Paul Ebner, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Animal Sciences


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