Food & Water Watch has released a statement critical of President Obama’s 2015 budget, which cuts the USDA’s budget for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) by $9.3 million as part of the “Modernization of Poultry Inspection Rule”. Food safety experts call this “The Filthy Chicken Rule”.
Last year, the government’s own Government Accountability Office (GAO) report called the results of the pilot program for this rule into question. That report evaluated 20 young chicken and five young turkey plants and found “gaping methodological flaws” in the pilot project. The GAO also questioned how FSIS could use that flawed evaluation as a basis to expand privatized inspections across the entire poultry industry.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director for Food & Water Watch, said, “this irresponsible cut will essentially privatize poultry inspections, putting the big poultry companies in charge of food safety while removing U.S. government meat inspectors from the job. To add insult to injury, it will move slaughter line speeds up from 140 to 175 birds a minute. Each year, food poisoning from contaminants like Salmonella result in 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. This is no time to privatize meat inspections and put companies in charge of food safety.”
The Foster Farms Salmonella chicken outbreak, which public health officials thought was over, was found to have sickened dozens more this week. And the recall of more than 8 million pounds of beef products, which were produced at Rancho Feeding Corporation last month without the benefit of federal inspection, is another reminder that we need more, not less, government oversight of meat processing plants in this country.
In March and April 2013, the USDA found that two of the poultry plants that were part of the pilot program failed the government’s Salmonella testing program. Yet they are going ahead with implementation of HIMP despite these alarming results. Hauter continued, “Congress should reject the President’s proposal to privatize vital food safety inspection programs and fully fund FSIS.”