Senator Jon Tester of Montana has expressed his concerns to the administration. In a recent letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Tester wrote:
“Without adequate scientific analysis to ensure the new process improves the safety of poultry slaughter and evisceration plants, it is premature to propose a rule that would standardize these practices across all plants. USDA should delay the proposed rules and reevaluate the pilot on food safety and market competition.”
Food safety and worker safety advocates have been campaigning against a proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to “modernize” poultry inspection – by taking federal food safety inspectors off the line and essentially replacing them with processing company employees. It’s worrying for food safety because the company inspectors would have to visually inspect about three chickens per second; processing plants that have tried the system under a pilot program have produced birds contaminated with feathers, bile and feces. And it’s worrying for worker safety because poultry processing is already an extremely dangerous job, and the proposed rule would allow companies to speed up the lines. (Much more information in our poultry rule information center.)
The Senator is right to speak out. The rule is currently in USDA’s hands, but expected to be sent to the White House for review soon. The Obama Administration should stop this ill-conceived proposal in its tracks.