Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

USDA Poultry Inspection Plan Sets Off Dispute

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page and our USDA Watch page.
Currently, the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors are stationed along the assembly lines in poultry plants and examine the birds for blemishes, feces or visible defects before they are processed.

Under the planned expansion, the agency would hand over these duties to poultry plant employees, while the inspectors would spend more time evaluating the plant's bacteria-testing and other safety programs. The department has run the pilot program in 20 poultry plants since 1998.

But many of the agency's inspectors said the proposal puts consumers at risk for diseases like those caused by salmonella. About 1.2 million cases of food poisoning are caused by salmonella each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In affidavits given to the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit legal-assistance group for government whistle-blowers, several inspectors who work at plants where the pilot program is in place said the main problem is that they are removed from positions on the assembly line and put at the end of the line, which makes it impossible for them to spot diseased birds.