Over 100 organizations have asked Obama in a formal letter to withdraw the US Department of Agriculture’s rule on the ‘modernization of poultry slaughter inspection.’ – a new-fangled way to use tax dollars to allow the poultry industry to regulate itself.
“The USDA wants to allow poultry company employees to do the job currently done by 800 USDA inspectors. The department is promoting this change as an opportunity to modernize the inspection program But what it boils down to is an attempt to cut USDA’s workforce, by putting the health and safety of consumers and workers at risk.”
The letter is signed by a myriad different type of organizations – from organic food retailers to wholesale groups, vegan chefs, and even environmental groups.
The letter explains a simple fallacy in the proposed new rules; according to Food and Water Watch, one turkey plant involved in a pilot program missed 99 percent of food safety and wholesomeness defects on birds.
“The department is promoting this change as an opportunity to modernize the inspection program,” the letter reads. “But what it boils down to is an attempt to cut USDA’s workforce by putting the health and safety of consumers and workers at risk.”
The USDA officials counter that agency inspectors only find “infectious conditions” on four individual birds out of every 100 million, but the letter signed by hundreds argues a different point.
It raises the issue of line speeds, which it says will be allowed to increase to 175 birds per minute, up from the current 140. At present, lines are allowed to run at speeds of 35 birds per every inspector on the line, up to 140 birds a minute with four inspectors. Under the new rules, one inspector would monitor a line that could potentially run at 175 birds per minute. How is it possible for an industry insider to detect problems with chicken or other poultry at thus rate?
“Proper inspection cannot occur at these excessive line speeds, whether conducted by a trained USDA inspector or a company employee,” the letter reads.
Furthermore, the proposed rule puts responsibility for protecting consumer safety on plant employees, but it does not require any training before they perform duties normally done by trained government inspectors. It also expects workers to check chicken at an inhuman speed for microbial issues or other possible public health threats.
As the letter points out, ‘it is like letting the fox guard the hen house.” Just business as usual with the good old USDA. Who wants to eat their funky chicken now?
“The proposed rule would let the fox guard the hen house, at the expense of worker safety and consumer protection,” the letter concludes. “We urge you to stop any further consideration of this ill-conceived proposal.”