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USDA’s First Egg Rules Change in 50 Years Means Inspector Cuts

Justina Vasquez

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is phasing out full-time inspectors in its first update of its egg-products inspection methods in half a century.

The move involves reinterpreting what the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service considers a “continuous inspection,” which previously required an inspector to be present in a facility at all times. Now, inspectors will be allowed to travel to various plants at least once during a work shift, mimicking standards being employed in the poultry and meat industries.

Changing the interpretation allows the Food Safety and Inspection Service “to better use its inspection resources to conduct more efficient and effective inspections,” the agency said in documents outlining the policy change, which is estimated to save the industry about $4.8 million annually over 10 years. “Manufacturers must meet certain requirements under this final rule. The amount of on-site inspection provided does not change those requirements.”

Not everyone likes the move: inspection personnel, a trade group and academics are among those complaining about the reduction in inspectors, arguing it’ll compromise oversight and shift the burden of adhering to new standards onto manufacturers. The agency said the change won’t compromise the ability of processors to meet safety standards.

The shift, which marks the first change to procedures since the Egg Products Inspection Act was passed in 1970, comes as protein producers suffer tanking demand from restaurant shutdowns during the pandemic and waning consumer demand.

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