Consumer Group Opposes USDA’s Privatization of Poultry Inspection

The USDA has privatized poultry inspection, though there's no evidence its pilot program worked.
From Food & Water Watch
January, 24, 2012
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In the USDA poultry inspection pilot program plants, line speeds have been permitted to run as fast as 200 birds per minute.
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Talk about the fox guarding the hen house! With virtually no fanfare, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on January 20th that poultry processing inspections have been privatized — granting authority to processors to oversee their own lines with no government oversight.  

Food & Water Watch obtained more than 5,000 pages of documents that show that current regulations are not observed by company inspectors, as chickens move past them on processing lines at speeds of up to 200 birds a minute. — MOTHER 

Washington, D.C. — The Secretary of Agriculture and Undersecretary for Food Safety announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plan to proceed with a program that would privatize the inspection of poultry products in the United States. Food & Water Watch vehemently opposes this plan and any other attempts to privatize food safety functions that are the responsibility of the federal government.

“This proposal is unacceptable and violates the department’s legal obligation to protect consumers by inspecting every carcass and every bird produced in USDA-inspected plants,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter.

The USDA has been running a pilot project with this new inspection scheme in two dozen slaughter facilities since 1998. In these plants, line speeds have been permitted to run as fast as 200 birds per minute, which is several times faster than other poultry slaughter plants. Reports from these plants indicate that the company employees who perform inspections that used to be performed by USDA inspectors are not properly trained or given the authority to take necessary action to stop unsafe product from leaving the plant.

An initial review of more than 5,000 pages of documents that Food & Water Watch recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicates that current regulations are not being enforced by company inspectors. For example, the records show that bile, sores, scabs, feathers, and digestive tract tissue are often not being properly removed from chicken carcasses.

Before the release of these documents just last week, the USDA has provided virtually no data or analysis of how this pilot program is working. The Government Accountability Office issued a critical report on the pilot program in 2001, and there has been no independent evaluation of how well this privatized scheme has been working since.

“The agency claims that the salmonella rates in the pilot project plants are lower than the rates for plants that receive conventional inspection. But given the GAO criticism of the design of the program and the fact that production practices can be easily be manipulated during government testing periods, FSIS’s claims are suspect,” said Hauter.

“This plan by USDA illustrates how much power the meat industry has inside this agency,” continued Hauter. “Handing over food safety inspections to companies to perform themselves is unacceptable. Food & Water Watch will oppose any attempts to do so in meat and poultry inspection or food safety programs run by the Food and Drug Administration. USDA must abandon this plan that puts industry interests above consumer protection.”

Contact:
Anna Ghosh, 202-683-9905, Aghosh@fwwatch.org
Rich Bindell, 202-683-2457, RBindell@fwwatch.org 


Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.


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Greg Jenkins
3/8/2012 5:08:21 AM
The article states: "Food & Water Watch vehemently opposes this plan and any other attempts to privatize food safety functions that are the responsibility of the federal government." Where does that say that in the Constitution??? I believe their are a lot of small farmers that want exactly the opposite of what Food & Water watch say. They want to process their poultry without USDA inspectors present. The big problem is that small farmers are mostly limited to 1000 birds a year. If we want to allow private corporations the right to monitor these activities, how about doing the same for small farmers, and discard the 1000/bird a year rule so they can compete too. The other thought is the birds leading up to slaughter are completley different between a small farmer and the subcontractor for the big processor. Feed, hormones, antibiotics, ect.

KIMBERLY RAK
2/13/2012 2:35:32 AM
HEEHEE :) Just a thought Mr. Brandt, but if your concerned with feeding the masses then we should really switch to at least vegetarian. If we took all the land that raises livestock and the land used to grow food for all this livestock. Got rid of the useless mono culture farms that produce food that is so devoid of nutrition that it doesn't even have any taste to it ( sorry off track short tangent there ) But back to point if we took all this land and switched to organic bio diverse crops using animals to heal the land and fertilize it naturally the U.S alone could produce enough food to feed all the hungry in the world. That's a great thing and to top it off the food would actually have taste and be healthy for you loaded with nutrients over time while the soil healed. From what I understand it takes 100 yrs. for the earth to make 1inch of topsoil the way nature intended. Modern farming has completely killed our soil. Try as we might we will never be able to beat mother nature. I think she's proven that over and over again. Please don't take this as me trying to jump down your throat I'm not. Just my opinion from yrs of research. I would suggest maybe watching Earthlings on youtube as far as the jungle not happening anymore. Does it happen on all farms I don't think so. But I also don't think that factory farmers are actually farmers to me personally they are sell outs and one day in the history books it will tell of the great fall of real farmers.

KIMBERLY RAK
2/13/2012 2:16:26 AM
Dear Mr. Brandt while you are right on some points in your post. I think maybe you are so focused in big gov. that your not looking at the big picture. For tonight because I have been on the road most of the day I'm gonna keep my reply kinda short so please forgive me if I leave anything out. As far as factory farmed anything ,it is not good for our health at all. You cannot expect to raise such a huge amount of anything without it being diseased. Sure you can cook it till it turns into leather but it is also almost completely devoid of any nutrition and isn't that the whole point of eating ? To provide nutrition for a healthy body. Plus it is a complete cycle between livestock and produce or vice versa. That doesn't even include all the antibiotics they use. 70 TO 80% of all antibiotics made in this country go directly to livestock to keep them from getting sick and helping them grow faster. Our sad excuse for a modern food system place a major cause in most of our sickness from diabetes to cancer this has been proven over and over again. While I am not a big fan of big gov. we have to stop blaming them for everything no one forced these farmers to farm they way they do. They did it probably for many reasons one I would hope would be lack of information. Farmers must start seriously educating themselves on everything that's out there and stop believing what all these sales rep's are telling them. It goes back to common sense and the old if it sounds to good to be true then it is. If you would like more info I can try to provide some :)

T BRANDT
1/29/2012 12:08:48 PM
Thanks for the kind words. If you can't refute my message, then just call me names. Good tactic.... My general theme as I reply to articles is that science (ie-analysis of correctly collected hard data) should determine our course, not emotional arguments based on fantasies of a perfect world..."The Jungle" was written a century ago. There were outrageous things being done then that could easily be corrected. Now we've been regulated into a point of diminishing returns. The pilot program started by USDA mentioned in the article has discovered no deterioration in the quality of the food, therefore, no reason not to continue it. ..If you would familiarize yourself with the food safety regulations & results they accrue, you'd see that many of the regs are superfulous "window dressing" calculated only to make the govt look like it's doing something, but not produciing measurable results other than adding expense to producers, and thus, consumers....Remember, you are king in your own kingdom at home and can regulate anything you like there: if you don't want to eat commercially tainted chickens or corn poisoned by Monsanto, then raise your own. Or do you think the govt should feed everybody too?...I defend industrial ag because there are 7 billion people out there who need to be fed. The techniques used prior to 1960 could only feed 3 billion. The math should be obvious..... I also know the economic risks American farmers take and how their profits don't seem to warrant the work they put into producing food. Most farmers need to have a job "in town" to supplement their incomes. It would be nice if more urbanites would take some time to see where their food really comes from and what those "protective" govt regs really mean to the producers and how little they really protect us.

Bob Mcbob
1/28/2012 2:48:00 PM
Why is it anytime there is anything that remotely criticizes "industry" you're the first one here to defend it? Industry shill much? Yes no one has gotten sick ....yet. it been a whole 9 days but I bet your the first to cry when it comes out that without government oversight we go right back to the days of Sinclairs "The Jungle." There is absolutely no reason to trust that private enterprise will do it correctly- and every reason to believe they will take dangerous shortcuts, thats why they are cheaper the government..They were allowed in the past to police themselves and they did not, why would it be different now? You have serious issues, the government is supposed to do things like this for the people along with police, firefighters, drug regulation- another thing im sure you think the industry does fine on it's own, just ignore all the dead bodies in their wake. I find you personally repugnant.

T BRANDT
1/25/2012 12:39:32 PM
Question: how big a problem is food poisoning from chickens? A: not very. Inspected or not, all cooks should consider all poultry contaminated with Salmonela and handle it accordingly....Q: Have illness rates gone up during this pilot program? A: apparently not....Q: Can an inspector see if a carcass has Salmonella, or any infection, by visual inspection? A: No..Q:. How long a look does an inspector need to see if a carcass is acceptable? A: 200 birds/sec probably isn'y too fast. At 3 sec each, the US production of chickens would require almost 4000 govt inspectors. We only employ ~1000. Besides, you won't get sick from eating an occassional feather or bruised muscle. That's all they're looking for....1000 govt inspectors @ only $50 Gs/ yr is $50 million out of our pockets. Private industry can do it more efficiently.Keep the govt off our backs.








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