Washington, D.C. – National advocacy organization Food & Water Watch will reiterate calls to President Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to stop the deregulation of meat inspections in a series of advocacy ad buys in Washington, D.C. this week.
A full-page print ad in Politico tomorrow and online ads on TheHill.com Friday morning feature a picture of a poultry line and tells the President and Secretary, “Only Superman could inspect 175 chickens per minute.” The Politico ad is signed by various organizations fighting the implementation of the poultry inspection rule, which will increase line speeds from 140 to 175 birds a minute and eliminate government inspectors, replacing them with poultry company employees. Secretary Vilsack is scheduled to testify before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Friday.
“We can’t allow the USDA to let the poultry companies police themselves just to save a few bucks,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, which has been fighting the rule since it was first proposed two years ago. “This rule is a gift to the meat industry, which has been fighting regulation for years, but it’s at the expense of worker and consumer safety. The USDA should do its job and uphold the federal meat inspection system, not dismantle it.”
Each year, food poisoning from contaminants like salmonella and campylobacter result in 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the United States. Yet the USDA does not have the legal authority to stop poultry from entering the food supply carrying these pathogens. Instead of closing the legal loophole, it is proposing to deregulate inspection.
And as Food & Water Watch points out in a humorous video inspired by the popular TV show “Portlandia,” most of the chicken sold in the U.S. are raised on factory farms, fed antibiotics to grow plumper faster, and dunked in bleach to remove fecal matter after slaughter.
“Chicken is already produced under appalling conditions. We can’t allow the USDA to roll back inspections on top of that.”
Earlier this month, over 100 farm, consumer, environmental and multi-issue advocacy groups and businesses across the country denounced the “filthy chicken rule” in a letter to President Obama. “With this proposed rule, the USDA wants to allow poultry company employees to do the job currently done by 800 USDA inspectors. The department is promoting this change as an opportunity to modernize the inspection program. But what it boils down to is an attempt to cut USDA’s workforce, by putting the health and safety of consumers and workers at risk,” said the letter.
The print ad in Politico will run tomorrow, March 13. Similar ads on TheHill.com will run from 12:00am-12:30pm on Friday, March 14 on the Main Congressional News pages.
Organizations that signed onto the print ad in Politico include American Federation of Government Employees, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Consumer Federation of America, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, National Family Farm Coalition, Oxfam America, Southern Poverty Law Center and The Humane Society of the United States.