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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

USDA Caves to Industry But Fight Isn’t Over

Alyssa Doom | August 1, 2014

Though extremely disappointed with the release of USDA’s new poultry inspection rule yesterday, FIC isn’t backing down in our fight against the problematic model. We will continue to fight to ensure that it is not expanded to other species.

FIC and a coalition of consumer groups have been fighting this flawed plan since federal inspectors expressed their frustrations with it when it began in pilot plants more than 15 years ago. While the agency did address some worker safety concerns by setting maximum line speeds at 140 birds per minute instead of 175, there are still major problems with this plan. Under the new model:

  • Untrained plant workers will take over the duties of federal USDA inspectors on processing lines. This poses a clear conflict of interest. According to inspectors, companies’ only goals are to get as much product out their doors as quickly as possible. Retired inspector and USDA whistleblower Phyllis McKelvey spent years working in one of the model’s pilot plants and has reported that consumer health will be seriously impacted by this rule. Untrained company workers do not have the power to question their supervisors, which could certainly result in unfit products destined for consumers’ plates.
  • The use of hazardous chemicals in plants will increase. As we have learned from inspectors, this will lead to more health problems among those working in these facilities and may impact food safety sampling data.
  • The Government Accountability Office reports that the rule relies on flawed data regarding foodborne illness

The pilot model was also tested in several hog plants around the country. While the current release of the rule does not permit hog plants to implement the new model, USDA inspectors have informed FIC that they are certain the agency’s goal is to expand the inspection system to all species. Insiders report that, if this were to happen, it would result in a huge blow to food safety.

While we are very disappointed with USDA’s decision to move forward with the plan, the fight is not over. With the help of food industry truth-tellers, we will continue collecting information about the negative impacts of this rule and plan to take on USDA in the fight against expanding it to other species in the industry.


Alyssa Doom is Investigation & Outreach Coordinator for the Food Integrity Campaign.