WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced an extension of the time-limited trial (TLT) for the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) establishments to operate without line speed limitations.

Currently six pork processing plants operate under the TLT, allowing for line speeds above 1,106 head per hour. The six facilities are located in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

In March 2021, a court order from a Minnesota District Court vacated the component of USDA’s NSIS that eliminated line speeds limits for participating establishments. Consequently, all NSIS establishments were required to operate at line speeds not exceeding 1,106 head per hour as of June 30, 2021.

In consultation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), FSIS proposed the TLT for NSIS establishments in November 2021. All participating establishments agreed to collect and submit data that would be used to evaluate the impact of increased line speed on workers.

Following the trial period, FSIS contracted with a third-party team of worker safety experts to evaluate the data. The team determined that the data submitted was not sufficient to conclusively evaluate the impact of increased line speeds.

FSIS is commissioning a study that will independently generate the necessary data for expert analysis. The agency is extending the TLTs for up to an additional 90 days while the study is being designed.

FSIS said it will send letters to the six swine establishments with requirements needed to operate a TLT during the 90-day period, including keeping in place measures outlined in their worker safety agreements.