Three chickens per second.
Under a new plan proposed by USDA, that's how fast inspectors would have to conduct quality control inspections in poultry factories -- six times the current rate.
Worse, USDA's proposed rules privatize these inspections, letting the industry police itself by replacing highly trained USDA food inspectors with poultry facility employees who have no required training.
Salmonella in our meat and poultry makes nearly a million people sick every year in the US -- it's our number one cause of food-borne illness. USDA's new plan could make the problem even worse, and we have just days to stop it.
Tell the USDA: Don't weaken poultry inspection standards!
Food safety groups are opposing the standards and veteran poultry inspectors are calling them "a big step back," and "a very, very bad idea."
Current rules provide for three inspectors to examine 140 birds per minute. Under the new rules, inspections would speed up to 200 per minute - with only one inspector on the line. Even the professionals say that is way too fast.
With far less time to inspect each chicken, unsanitary, defective poultry meat has a higher chance of making it into our supermarkets. And while USDA says it would save less than $30 million per year on poultry inspection costs, it could cost the agency (and us) far more to deal with potential increases in foodborne illness.
Speeding up the poultry line isn't just hazardous to our health -- it's also hazardous to those who work in poultry factories. Poultry workers already have an alarming rate of workplace injury from conditions which include a workplace full sharp objects like knives and scissors, and from the repetitive nature of poultry factory tasks. Speeding up the chicken line will only make conditions even more hazardous.
Tell the USDA: Don't weaken poultry inspection standards! Submit a comment before the May 29th deadline.
But while food and worker safety will undoubtedly suffer, the new rules are expected to result in a quarter of a billion dollar windfall to poultry companies.
The safety of our food, especially poultry which has such a high incidence of contamination, should be the highest priority of USDA. If their answer is less quality control inspection, more dangerous workplace conditions, and allowing an industry with a horrible safety record to police itself, it's probably time to go back to the drawing board.
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Speeding up poultry inspections posses an increased risk to the safety of our food and poultry plant workers. Rates of food-borne contamination in poultry are already far too high - and leaving quality control in the hands of this industry is only a recipe to make our food less safe.
I depend on USDA to protect the safety of our food. But the proposed poultry inspection standards are a dangerous step backwards, and should not be adopted.
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