We are pleased that Dr. Michael Fisher has joined the FTCLDF website as a regular contributor. Dr. Fisher is a retired United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) veterinarian, bringing decades of experience enforcing FSIS regulations during the slaughter and processing of animals for which the USDA provides inspection services. Dr. Fisher is thrilled to bring you his expertise and guidance to help you navigate regulatory compliance. His goal is for small, USDA-inspected meat processors to succeed and to understand how to best maintain compliance and reduce regulatory issues.
Plumbing and Sewage
In 21st century America, it is easy to take the plumbing that carry potable water in and non-potable water out for granted. Out of sight should not be out of mind. My father was a plumber. He routinely put me up close and personal with such pipes. It was usually what you could not see that cost the most to fix.
Unlike other 9 CFR 416 requirements, much of §416.2(e) and (f) are prescriptive.
9 CFR 416.2(e) Plumbing
Plumbing systems must be installed and maintained to:
(1) Carry sufficient quantities of water to required locations throughout the establishment;
(2) Properly convey sewage and liquid disposable waste from the establishment;
(3) Prevent adulteration of product, water supplies, equipment, and utensils and prevent the creation of insanitary conditions throughout the establishment;
(4) Provide adequate floor drainage in all areas where floors are subject to flooding-type cleaning or where normal operations release or discharge water or other liquid waste on the floor;
(5) Prevent back-flow conditions in and cross-connection between piping systems that discharge waste water or sewage and piping systems that carry water for product manufacturing; and
(6) Prevent the backup of sewer gases.
9 CFR 416.2(f) Sewage Disposal
Sewage must be disposed into a sewage system separate from all other drainage lines or disposed of through other means sufficient to prevent backup of sewage into areas where product is processed, handled, or stored. When the sewage disposal system is a private system requiring approval by a State or local health authority, the establishment must furnish FSIS with the letter of approval from that authority upon request.
FSIS equates the presence of any of the below conditions as a condition whereby product may be contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health. Get these wrong and FSIS can take a withholding action or impose a suspension. For instance, pipes convey sewage and liquid disposable waste from the establishment, or they don’t. Floors drain, or they don’t. Back-flow conditions and cross connections exist, or they don’t. You smell sewer gas, or you don’t. Sewage systems are separate, or they aren’t. Private sewage systems are approved, or they aren’t.
Significant 9 CFR 416.2(e) and (f) noncompliance are uncommon, and usually involve official establishments built before municipalities got serious about enforcing modern building codes that undergo renovation or reopen under new ownership following a time of closure.
The following scenarios really happened.
1. A new owner applied for a grant of inspection. FSIS inspected the facility. The fire suppression system installed by the previous owner drew water from both potable and non-potable sources. FSIS denied the application.
2. One month after reopening following a time of closure, multiple floor drains backed up every afternoon. FSIS withheld inspection. The establishment lost three days production. The main sewage line had never been cleaned out and was 50% blocked with grease buildup.
3. The establishment replaced hose drops over the weekend. Prior to the start of operations on Monday, hoses spewed out cloudy water. The establishment lost a half day of production flushing sediment buildup knocked loose during renovation from water lines and rewashing the facility.
More common are allegations of noncompliance asserting insufficient quantities of water and inadequate floor drainage. If food contact surfaces can be effectively cleaned and floors drained, albeit slowly, in the absence of product adulteration, sanitary conditions exist. The risk associated with plumbing and sewage systems is low. The cost of failure can be significant. Do not assume that FSIS will approve a facility previously operated by another as an official establishment. When renovating infrastructure, be aware; fixing one problem can create another.
To paraphrase Capital One, “What’s in Your Pipes?”
As always, if you have a question, please use the Contact Us link and ask.
Did you miss Dr. Fisher’s previous posts?
YOUR FUND AT WORK
Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts and social media outreach.