USDA conspires with factory chicken producers to reduce inspections, speed factory output
The federal agency responsible for conducting food inspections has announced a new proposal to screen chickens for disease and contaminates, but the measure has some industry analysts concerned because it would reduce the number of inspectors at processing plants.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed change would mean inspectors at poultry plants would be reduced from four to one and instead rely more on plant employees to fill in and perform more inspection duties.
The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), said the changes would “ensure and even enhance the safety of the poultry supply by focusing our inspectors’ efforts on activities more directly tied to improving food safety,” agency spokesman Dirk Fillpot said in a statement.
The USDA says the measure is necessary to modernize food inspection while saving taxpayers and the poultry industry money. Rather than peering over production lines, remaining FSIS inspectors would instead focus on issues that pose the greatest health risks to the public, according to reports.
Food safety advocates are, well, crying fowl. They say the plan is filled with negative ramifications, mostly because they say the remaining FSIS inspectors will have virtually no time to inspect the billions of chickens processed each year. In a report about the proposed change, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put that time at about one-third of a second, because in addition to reducing the number of inspectors, the proposal speeds up production lines by about 25 percent.