All Things FSIS

The Basics: Meat and Poultry Inspection


The Constitution empowers Congress “To regulate Commerce … among the several States…” and Congress exercised that power when it passed the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).  After the President signed the statutes into law, the Government Printing Office (GPO) codified them in the United States Code (USC).  The FMIA is codified in Title 21, Chapter 12, Meat Inspection. The PPIA is codified in Title 21, Chapter 10, Poultry and Poultry Products Inspection.  

The FMIA and PPIA require the Secretary of Agriculture to “cause to be made, by inspectors appointed for that purpose, an inspection of:”

  • all amenable species before they enter an official establishment;
  • the carcasses and parts to be prepared;
  • all prepared products brought into an official establishment;
  • all prepared products issued from an official establishment; and
  • sanitary conditions in establishments where products are prepared, packed, or held for commerce.

The Secretary shall require that such inspectors “mark … as ‘‘Inspected and passed’’ all products found to be not adulterated,” “mark … as ‘‘Inspected and condemned’’ all such products found adulterated,” and “where the sanitary conditions … are such that … products are rendered adulterated, he shall refuse to allow said … products to be marked… as ‘‘inspected and passed.’’  

The Secretary delegates authority to effectuate the FMIA and PPIA to the Under Secretary for Food Safety [7 CFR 2.18], who delegates authority to the Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) [7 CFR 2.53].  The FSIS Administrator conducts rulemaking and issues regulations to implement the USC. The GPO publishes these regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 9, Chapter III [9 CFR 300 et seq.] 

The FMIA and PPIA require official establishments to attach a proper label to products marked ‘‘Inspected and passed’’ and destroy products marked “Inspected and condemned.’’  The FMIA and PPIA prohibit official establishments from slaughtering amenable species and preparing articles capable of use as human food for commerce without inspection; and from the sale, transport, offer for sale or transport, or receipt for transport, in commerce, of any article capable of use as human food that is adulterated or misbranded.

The Constitution prohibits FSIS from depriving an official establishment of “liberty, or property,” except for a proper governmental objective.”  Liberty extends to any conduct an official establishment is free to pursue.  Property is anything that can be owned.  Neither can be restricted.  A proper governmental objective is limited to preventing articles capable of use as human food that are adulterated or misbranded in commerce.  Restrictions are limited to (1) refusing to make an inspection or removing inspectors, (2) refusing to mark product or withholding the use of a label, or (3) detaining, seizing, and condemning adulterated or misbranded product in commerce.

Bottom Line:

Official establishments must:

  • slaughter amenable species and prepare articles capable of use as human food for commerce with FSIS inspection
  • attach a proper label to all products marked ‘‘Inspected and passed’’
  • destroy products marked “Inspected and condemned’
  • sell, transport, offer for sale or transport, or receive for transport, in commerce, only articles capable of use as human food that are not adulterated or not misbranded

Failure to do so will result in FSIS:

  • refusing to provide or withdrawing inspection
  • refusing to mark products ‘‘Inspected and passed
  • withholding the use of a label
  • detaining, seizing, or condemning product in commerce

Those are the basic rules under the USC.  As prescribed in 9 CFR, Chapter III Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), the rules become more detailed, but they do not change. 

About the author

Michael Fisher

Husband of one. Father of three. Grandfather of six. Soldier. Traveler. Advisor. Friend.

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