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Washington, D.C. - Statement of Nasima Hossain, U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate, on the new proposed poultry inspection rule.
“An article today in the Huffington Post quotes Cass Sunstein, the head of OIRA, who hails the new USDA poultry inspection rule proposal as a common sense, cost-saving change that will streamline antiquated poultry inspection requirements, allowing companies to choose a more flexible approach with five-year savings in excess of $1 billion. In actual fact this new proposed rule would allow poultry plants to speed up their processing lines to a maximum of 175 birds per minute. Many worker safety groups are concerned that these extremely fast processing lines will pose a dangerous threat to workers’ safety, but another concern should be that at this fast rate of inspection a single inspector will have to inspect about 3 birds every second, making it almost impossible for poultry workers to detect all diseased and damaged carcasses of chickens.
“It is hard to imagine that inspecting 140 to a maximum of 175 birds a minute will ensure the chickens we are buying at the grocery store are not diseased or infected with campylobacter or salmonella. Research has shown that currently sixty-two percent of chickens test positive for campylobacter and fourteen percent test positive for salmonella. How is it possible for poultry workers to inspect poultry at this proposed rate? Every time an inspector blinks, I suspect several chickens may pass by unseen and uninspected.
“This new rule will not help update an outmoded system. Expanding the poultry inspection pilot program in this manner will only increase the number of foodborne illnesses we see. This is a rule that will protect the poultry industry’s business interest not the public health and consumer safety of the American public.”
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