Pressure mounts on USDA to scrap poultry inspection regs

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based nonprofit, is the latest public interest group to call on the agency to scrap a proposed rule that would cut federal personnel and shift inspection responsibilities to plant employees.

The USDA’s  draft regulations, unveiled last year, are based on 15-year-old pilot programs at selected chicken, turkey and hog plants around the country. Beyond cutting inspectors, the rule would allow for plants to increase line speeds, allowing as many as 175 carcasses to pass by workers every minute. 

“U.S. Department of Agriculture should scuttle its plans to speed up production lines and reduce the number of government inspectors for poultry,” said Sarah Klein, CSPI’s senior food safety attorney.

“The government does not have enough evidence that the existing hog and poultry pilot programs—on which the new poultry program is based—have succeeded in resulting in safer meat,” Klein said.

The assertion comes on the heels of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finding that the USDA  “has not thoroughly evaluated the performance of each of the pilot projects over time even though the agency stated it would do so when it announced the pilot projects.”

The regulations have also drawn criticism from an assortment of food and worker safety groups, who warn that the new procedures would threaten worker safety and public health.

Earlier Monday, The Washington Post ran a story revealing that the pilot program failed to catch contaminated pork at hog plants.