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OCR for page 88
Appendix E Summaly of Verbal and Written Testimony by FSIS Inspectors The present committee interviewed 24 FSTS food inspectors and received sworn affidavits signed by more than 50 inspectors. Although some were supportive, many statements were critical of STS-C. Many criticisms leveled at SIS-C described events or situations that could occur or exist in traditional inspection as well as SIS-C. There was a disgruntled employee attitude that may be characteristic of labor-management interactions throughout the highly regulated food processing industry. Nonetheless, it was disheartening to conclude that the most severe critics of FSIS and SIS-C were FSIS's own employees--its lay inspectors and a few of its veterinarians. These inspectors, who work daily on the front lines, appeared to be sincerely concerned that the USDA stamp of approval had lost its credibility. Many said that they had lost faith in the agency because of its pilot SIS project and feared that nationwide implementation of the program would create serious public health hazards. Although the present committee was unable to investigate criticisms of specific incidents, it heard repeated claims that SIS-C guidelines were too lenient and that under SIS-C, inspectors had lost control of the slaughter process. Some monitoring is left to company quality control personnel who participate in corporate profit-sharing programs and who are allegedly urged (or, it is claimed, intimidated) by management to speed the process and increase productivity at the expense of sanitation and good inspection techniques. Some inspectors also believe that SIS-C deputizes industry to police itself and that industry is incapable of shouldering this responsibility because it cannot resist the temptation to cut corners to increase profits. The most repeated specific criticisms of SIS-C were: o o o SIS-C structure is vulnerable to company abuse. Sample sizes for statistical sampling were small, and many lots of cattle never appeared in the sample (this concern may reflect misunderstanding of the purpose of statistical sampling as a device for monitoring the process--not preventing exposure). The washing process, which is not unique to SIS-C, diffuses bacteria, hides fecal stains, and adds water to the carcass. Inspectors do not get a good look inside eviscerated carcasses because carcasses are not split until after they have passed all inspection stations. Thus, the insides of split carcasses are examined only if they happen to fall in the random sample. 88

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o o o o o Inspectors see random sampling as an obstacle that permits them from closely ~ examining carcasses. The CUSUM score required to trigger reworking (trimming) of dirty carcasses is too high. Inspectors see need for an inspector at a final check point or rail inspection station just before the carcass is washed and moves into the cooler. The inspectors believe that the certified trimming portion of plant PQC program is ineffective because the training of the trimmers is meager, the turnover of these personnel is high, and many trimmers do not speak English and thus cannot understand what little training is given to them. Inspectors no longer palpate tongues, hearts, diaphragms, and esophagi. Inspectors no longer observe and direct the trimming process. The agency does not support its own personnel in disputes over inspection interpretations but frequently supports company positions, thereby leaving their own employees with the feeling that their authority and status have been undermined. Some line speeds are so fast that effective inspection is impossible and line speed hypnosis is created. inspectors agree that industry should assume greater responsibility for product quality but believe that SIS-C provides a blank check for faster line speeds, less qualified workers, fewer inspectors, and less government oversight. 89