October 21, 2021

Obama Administration Proceeds with Privatized Poultry Inspection

The Obama administration’s proposed cuts to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) signals the government is proceeding with privatized poultry inspection that has been criticized by food safety and worker safety groups. The change in regulations was proposed on January 27, 2012 in spite of hundreds of thousands of comments to the USDA opposing the change.

Chicken carcass on lineWenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, issued a statement that said, “USDA has been conducting a pilot using this privatized inspection model since 1999 in 20 chicken and 5 turkey slaughter facilities. The department has made the argument that the remaining USDA inspectors in the plants can focus on ‘food safety’ issues leaving ‘quality’ defects for the company employees to handle. The department’s own analysis accompanying the January 2012 proposed rule revealed that Salmonella rates in the plants using the privatized model were higher in pilot plants than comparably-sized plants receiving conventional inspection.”

She continued, “More alarming is the fact that, of the poultry plants that failed the most recent round of the FSIS Salmonella testing, two are part of the pilot project – Tyson Foods Establishment P7101 located in Clarksville, Arkansas, and Golden Rod Broilers Establishment P341 located in Cullman, Alabama. The pilot plants represent a disproportionate share of the all poultry plants that failed the Salmonella testing. Yet, the Administration is seeing fit to move forward with an inspection model that may increase foodborne illness and not reduce it.”

The government estimates that FSIS would save $90 million over three years by eliminating 800 USDA inspector positions. The poultry industry would save $26o million per year because the line speeds could be increased to 175 birds per minute under the looser requirements. Groups against the change include Government Accountability Project, Center for Science int he Public Interest, Consumers Union, and Consumer Federation of America.

In December 2012, some members of Congress asked the USDA for a second time to withdraw the proposed program, called HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) because they said it would “have deleterious impacts on food food safety and worker safety.” And in November 2012, a former USDA poultry inspector started a petition against the USDA plan.


  1. Harriette Jensen says

    Quality in chickens IS food safety. And quality failure is food disaster!

  2. jim smith says

    Its not what the USDA inspector can see that will cause human illness….I for one don’t understand the argument that is always brought up which states the fact salmonella was or is more prevalent in the HIMP establishments than in the traditional inspection methods establishments, USDA inspectors can’t see salmonella anyway so where is the argument.

    • Linda Larsen says

      Please see this report by the Government Accountability Project. First of all, inspectors can’t see inside the birds, where fecal matter may be hidden. Second, plant workers won’t be able to stop the lines, since inspectors have seen these workers be rebuked by plant supervisors when they try to slow the line down. Also, the Critical Control Point is moved further down the line under HIMP, after a key Inspection Station.

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