June 19, 2024

Food & Water Watch Sues USDA to Stop Poultry Rule

Food & Water Watch sued the USDA yesterday to stop implementation of the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) rules, which would replace government food safety inspectors with company employees. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement, “these rules essentially privatize poultry inspection, and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves.”

Chicken carcass on lineThese rules come on the heels of the huge Foster Farms chicken Salmonella outbreak which sickened thousands of people over many months. Many people in that outbreak were hospitalized because the seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg on those products were resistant to several strains of antibiotics. The NRDC just released USDA-FSIS inspection reports on Foster Farms which showed that Foster Farms two plants had 200 separate violations during that outbreak.

The lawsuit charges that the new system violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) that was passed in 1957. That law gives the USDA authority to protect consumer health and welfare by ensuring that poultry products are “wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and packaged.” According to Food & Water Watch, NPIS violates statutory requirements, including the requirement that federal government inspectors, not company staff, are responsible for condemning adulterated carcasses.

Under the new system, which has been planned for years, company employees will be removing adulterated products from slaughter lines, which move at 145 birds per minute, at their own discretion. Those employees do not have to be trained, whereas USDA inspectors are extensively trained.

Hauter said, “USDA’s new system will harm consumers and reverse 100 years of effective government regulation of the meat industry. It’s essentially a return to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It’s a huge step backwards for our food safety system.”


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