May 20, 2022

Protestors Rally At USDA To Decry Proposed Changes In Poultry Inspection

Consumer groups and federal food inspectors were among those who gathered yesterday outside USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to protest proposed changes in poultry inspection.

Chicken carcass on lineThe changes, proposed in January, are meant to streamline operations, cut costs and reduce the risk of foodborne illness, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. When he made the announcement, Vilsack said the changes would save an estimated $90 million over the next three years and reduce the risk of foodborne illness by focussing inspection efforts on “critical food safety tasks.”

But because the proposed changes slash the number of on-site federal food inspectors, leaving just one at every plant; and increase line speeds for young chickens to 175 carcasses per minute and to 55 carcasses per minute for turkey, some wonder how improving food safety is possible.

The USDA is accepting comments on the proposal through April 26. As of April 2, 205 comments had been submitted including those by individuals identifying themselves as federal poultry inspectors.

Some of them liken the change to giving the fox the keys to the henhouse, such as Nicholas Mandese who says, “Being an on-line poultry inspector since 2005 I take pride in knowing that the work I do means something to the American public. And in my brief time within the FSIS I have not seen many things but, I do know that the training books we read one is Conflict of Interest… and allowing the poultry industry to inspect there own product goes against all that we were trained.”

Charles Grell, another inspector to comment, says in his experience plant employees never pull a carcass from the line unless they are told to do so by USDA inspectors. “I fear a lot of bad poultry will enter the system,” he says.

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