US campaign group to sue USDA over poultry inspection rule

By Georgi Gyton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food & Water Watch filed suit last week
Food & Water Watch filed suit last week

Related tags: Food safety, Poultry, Federal government of the united states, Meat

Food & Water Watch (FWW), an American not-for-profit organisation, is suing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a bid to stop the implementation of the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS).

It filed suit in federal court last week over fears that key food safety functions would be left in the hands of the poultry companies themselves, with "limited oversight by USDA inspectors",​ and that the changes to the inspection system could potentially be detrimental to the health of consumers.

In its suit, the FWW stated that it believed the new system violated the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957, which gave the USDA the authority to "protect consumer health and welfare by assuring that poultry products are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labelled and packaged".

It also said the NPIS violated a number of requirements under the Act, for example that "federal government inspectors, and not poultry slaughter establishment staff, are responsible for condemning adulterated young chicken and turkey carcasses".

Poultry processors would be allowed to increase line speeds to up to 140 birds per minute, said the organisation, while poultry processing facility staff would also assume floor inspections.

The FWW claimed that consumers would be hurt by the NPIS, and said "It’s a huge step backwards for our food safety system".

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of FWW, said: "These rules essentially privatise poultry inspection, and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves.

"The USDA’s decision to embrace the scheme — an initiative lobbied for by the meat industry for more than a decade — flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers. What’s more, we believe it’s illegal.

"USDA’s new system will harm consumers and reverse 100 years of effective government regulation of the meat industry."

According to the USDA, the new system would position food safety inspectors throughout poultry facilities in a smarter way, which would enable them to focus less on routine quality assurance tasks, that have little relationship with preventing pathogens, and "focus more on strategies that are proven to strengthen food safety".

Related topics: Meat

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