Washington, D.C. –On the heels of reports that some poultry slaughter employees have resorted to wearing diapers when denied bathroom breaks, today Food & Water Watch released a list of poultry plants – and their supermarket brands– that are participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s controversial New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) program, which removes trained USDA inspectors from slaughter lines and gives their responsibilities over to company employees.
“As consumers get ready for the summer grilling season, they need to know which poultry plants are using privatized inspection to prioritize efficiency and profits over people,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The USDA should never have allowed companies to police themselves, but to add insult to injury, they failed to even let consumers know which products are coming out of these plants.”
The list of plants was obtained by Food & Water Watch through the Freedom of Information Act.
The NPIS system has been run as a pilot project since 1998 and plants began to switch to the new system in early 2015. Under the new system, inspectors are moved off slaughter lines to do testing activities, while only one USDA inspector remains to actually inspect carcasses. That lone inspector is responsible for evaluating up to 2.33 birds per second in broiler chicken plants; in turkey slaughter facilities, the inspector is expected to inspect one turkey carcass per second. Company employees are left chiefly responsible for identifying and dealing with defects and food safety problems.
The forty-one plants participating in the NPIS system as of this year include some of the biggest names in the poultry industry, including Tyson, Butterball, Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride. They sell poultry products under dozens of brand names in grocery stores, and to school lunch programs and other institutions. USDA is actively encouraging more plants to participate and the program is open to all poultry plants. The agency estimated that 99.9 percent of all domestic poultry would be produced by plants operating under the new rules.
But that is dependent on the program being a success. Consumers can avoid the product at the grocery store, but only by looking for the establishment numbers of the plants on this list.
“People shouldn’t have to research whether the chicken they buy at the supermarket was actually inspected by trained government inspectors,” said Hauter. “But thanks to years of lobbying by big poultry companies to deregulate inspections, industry profits have prevailed over food safety.”
On December 22, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit filed by Food & Water Watch and its members challenging the new rules as unlawful because they gave private poultry company employees the responsibility to find and condemn adulterated poultry instead of federal inspectors. A separate lawsuit was filed by the union representing USDA inspectors and is currently being reviewed the appeals court.
See the list of plants here.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, [email protected]