Obama Administration Caves to Poultry Industry By Proceeding With Privatized Inspection
Statement of Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C.—“The Obama Administration’s proposed cuts to the FY 2014 budget for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) pave the way for an ill-conceived proposal to remove government inspectors from slaughter facilities and turn over their responsibilities to company-paid employees. The Obama Administration proposed a change in regulations on January 27, 2012, to implement this privatized inspection model and these budget cuts advance this aim despite hundreds of thousands of comments to the USDA opposing the proposal. Although the final rule has not been published, the proposed FY 2014 budget makes the rule a fait accompli.
“USDA has been conducting a pilot using this privatized inspection model since 1999 in 20 chicken and 5 turkey slaughter facilities. The department has made the argument that the remaining USDA inspectors in the plants can focus on ‘food safety’ issues leaving ‘quality’ defects for the company employees to handle. The department’s own analysis accompanying the January 2012 proposed rule revealed that Salmonella rates in the plants using the privatized model were higher in pilot plants when comparably–sized plants receiving conventional inspection.
“Food & Water Watch did its own analysis of the inspection documents from a group of the poultry plants participating in the pilot and we found that ‘quality defects,’ including visible fecal contamination, were being missed by company employees (see http://foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/privatized-meat-inspection-experiment-jeopardizes-food-safety/).
“More alarming is the fact that, of the poultry plants that failed the most recent round of the FSIS salmonella testing, two are part of the pilot project – Tyson Foods Establishment P7101 located in Clarksville, Arkansas, and Golden Rod Broilers Establishment P341 located in Cullman, Alabama. The pilot plants represent a disproportionate share of the all poultry plants that failed the salmonella testing. Yet, the Administration is seeing fit to move forward with an inspection model that may increase food borne illness and not reduce it (List of failing plants can be found here http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/FSISFailedBroilerPlants.pdf).
“When the Obama Administration first proposed expanding this pilot, it estimated that the FSIS would save $90 million over three years by eliminating some 800 USDA inspector positions, and the poultry industry would stand to pad its bottom line to the tune of $260 million per year since more companies could increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute under fewer regulatory requirements. The new inspection model also poses serious threats to worker health.
“Congress should reject the Administration’s proposal. Instead, the Administration should be seeking legislative authority for FSIS to regulate foodborne pathogens in all meat and poultry plants that fall under its jurisdiction instead of letting the companies regulate themselves.”
Contact: Anna Ghosh, [email protected], 415-293-9905