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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Watching the Watchdog: Questions for USDA on Poultry Inspection

Food Integrity Campaign | October 17, 2014

Given USDA’s plan to move ahead with its New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), federal lawmakers have agreed it’s time to hold the USDA accountable for claims that its new system will improve food safety and overall inspection. Today, 15 members of the House of Representatives sent a long list of questions to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding how USDA intends to implement NPIS.

Questions for Secretary Vilsack covered areas such as staffing, food safety, worker safety and animal welfare. All good questions, many of which are concerns that FIC whistleblowers have shared in their affidavits.

Below are a few more questions that USDA whistleblowers would have added to the list:

1. According to one USDA inspector, NPIS attempts “to resolve real food safety issues with chemicals.” What does the agency have to say about concerns regarding general spraying of chemicals on all poultry rather than selective processing? How will inspectors and plant workers effectively do their job if many can’t even breathe due to excess chemical exposure?

2. Another whistleblower said “both [NPIS] pilot plants where I work continuously fail salmonella tests.” What steps will be taken to ensure reduced contamination? Will plants be removed from NPIS if contamination problems persist?

3. An industry insider said, “The pilot plant I worked in was a mess. I couldn’t believe how much fecal matter we were finding, and the agency constantly pressured us not to make a big deal out of it.” Under NPIS, will eliminating contamination remain a priority even if accurate reporting impedes plant productivity? Will there be safe outlets for workers to raise serious food safety concerns without fear of termination or transfer?

These are just a few of the questions we have.

Have more questions for USDA about NPIS? Share them in the comments.


Sarah Damian is Communications Manager for the Food Integrity Campaign.