The American Meat Institute Thursday released a quick look at what services are discontinued and what services have been retained during the government "shutdown" that has resulted from Congress' inability to pass a federal spending bill.
Services having an impact on the meat industry include many offered through the USDA, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Agricultural Marketing Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. AMI said closures in the Department of Homeland Security will also impact the meat industry.
Below is a quick look at how it all shakes out:
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
U.S. meat and poultry slaughter plants will be inspected continuously and processing plants will be inspected daily. AMI said meat and poultry inspection continues despite the government shutdown because it is considered an "essential service." As a result, in-plant oversight of food safety, application of proper product labels and humane slaughter are continuing normally.
Border inspections also continue for imports, and if a recall is needed, it will be managed by USDA. The microbiological monitoring and surveillance program continues as well.
Services Not Operating
AMI notes that U.S. meat and poultry packers and processors must secure government approval of certain product labels before they are applied, and even though label application submissions continue to be sent to USDA headquarters, they will not be processed. A backlog is expected when the government reopens.
New products slated to be introduced or products that have been formulated require an updated label, like a product with a sodium reduction, cannot enter commerce without an approved label. This will create a major backlog for product introductions, AMI estimated.
The USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline for consumers with safe food handling questions is closed. Pre-recorded phone messages operate, as does the on line system AskKaren.
Agricultural Marketing Services
Meat grading, which determines the quality grades for beef, pork and lamb, is a voluntary service that is continuing because the industry pays the fees associated with it, AMI said.
Daily transactions between livestock producers, as well as purchases of meat products, are contained in USDA market reports, which are no longer available during the shutdown. Products are commonly priced based upon these reports. Likewise, settlement of futures contracts from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are based on the reports, as well.
The absence of these reports is complicating business transactions, AMI said.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
APHIS continues to provide fee for services that are directly related to animal health protection including issuance of export certificates for animal products.
Department of Homeland Security
Many meat companies use a voluntary program called "E-Verify" to ensure that new hires are eligible for employment. E-Verify is ordinarily available for used in the first three days after hire (not before hire). The system currently is not available, but DHS has made clear that the "three day rule" is being suspended.