USDA Proposes Privatizing Poultry Inspections
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
In what it calls a win-win reform that will save money and improve food safety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to change the way it inspects poultry processing plants.
Critics of the plan say it amounts to privatizing food inspection and threatens to expose consumers to more tainted meats.
Currently, government inspectors from the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) review chicken and turkey carcasses as they go through slaughterhouses. Under the new program, FSIS will spend more time evaluating a company’s food safety procedures, with the expectation that plant workers will then do a cleaner job of processing poultry.
“There will still be an inspector on the line looking at these birds, but that inspector will be looking at a bird that comes across with fewer defects because the sorting will happen at the beginning,” Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Elizabeth Hagen told the media last week.
The government claims the new system will save FSIS $85 million to $95 million over the next three years in operational costs.
Industry representatives praised the proposal, while consumer advocates blasted it.
“Food & Water Watch vehemently opposes this plan and any other attempts to privatize food safety functions that are the responsibility of the federal government," said the consumer watchdog group.
USDA to Revamp Poultry Inspection (by Gretchen Goetz, Food Safety News)
USDA Seeks to Modernize Poultry Inspection in the United States (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Foxes Guarding Chicken Coops (and Other Food) Leads to Disease (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Update: The FSIS responds: “This proposal would not privatize poultry inspection. The modernization effort being announced today would shift FSIS personnel away from performing sorting activities, which primarily serves a marketing function for producers, and focuses their efforts on conducting carcass-by-carcass and other inspection activities that will better ensure the safety of poultry available for consumers.”
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