Washington, D.C. – Today, representatives from several consumer organizations met with staff from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to continue to voice their opposition to the USDA plan to transfer most poultry inspection from government inspectors to the companies so they can police themselves.
“We expect the White House to jam this rule through quickly,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, the advocacy organization that asked for the meeting with OMB staff. “Given the failure of the Obama Administration to implement policies to protect farmers from big meat packers, we suspect they are preparing to give another huge gift to the meat industry—the ability to police themselves when it comes to food safety.”
The USDA estimated in the proposed rule that the industry will stand to gain $260 million annually because of increased production and fewer regulatory requirements with no guarantees of improved food safety.
The change in regulations was first proposed in January 2012, but because of strong opposition from consumer organizations, worker safety advocates and animal welfare groups, the implementation has been delayed. When the comment period closed on the proposed rule, USDA had received over 175,000 public comments – most of them opposed to the proposal. Since then, other petitions have been sent to USDA and the White House containing hundreds of thousands of signatures urging the withdrawal of the rule. There have also been several congressional letters sent to USDA urging reconsideration of the rule. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in August 2013 that called into question whether USDA had sufficient data to justify this radical change in poultry inspection.
On July 10, 2014, the USDA sent a final rule to the OMB for review that department officials claim contains significant revisions to the proposed rule. The consumer groups asked that the revised rule be made public now and have a new comment period with public meetings so that the revisions can be evaluated and receive public input. This idea was first proposed by Food & Water Watch nearly two weeks ago.
“I sincerely hope that the OMB staff listened to what was said today,” said Hauter. “The consumer group representatives left them with a considerable amount of documentation showing why the original ‘Filthy Chicken’ proposed rule was flawed. If USDA has substantially revised the proposed rule, then make its contents public now and have a new comment period. This is too important an issue to consumers to let USDA have the final say in how poultry is inspected especially with all of the controversy that the original reckless proposal has generated,” added Hauter.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]