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Consumers Protest Dirty Chicken Outside USDA

Consumers Protest Dirty Chicken Outside USDA

Between pink slime in school lunches, reckless approval of genetically modified organisms, and classifying pizza as a vegetable, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to making sure our food supply contains, well, actual food.

And it looks like instead of strengthening rules about safe food production, the USDA would rather expand its “hands off” approach: the agency wants to cut back on its meat and poultry inspection program and let company employees do the job currently done by 800 professional federal inspectors.

In other words, they want to allow an industry with a long record of food safety failures to regulate itself.

Today, food inspectors, food safety advocates and consumers gathered in front of the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington D.C. to protest the plans to privatize and hasten the inspection of poultry slaughter plants.

USDA-chicken-protestImage provided by Food & Water Watch

“Cutting the budget does not justify putting the health and safety of consumers and workers in the balance,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, which participated in the protest. ”USDA inspectors receive extensive training to protect public health in poultry facilities, but there is no similar requirement for company employees to receive training before they assume these inspection responsibilities in the proposed privatized inspection system. This short-sighted thinking could actually cost the federal government more to deal with a potential increase in foodborne illnesses caused by unsanitary, defective poultry and meat.”

A recent Food & Water Watch analysis of a pilot program for these cuts found an appalling amount of defective and unsanitary poultry contaminated with feces, bile and feathers got through.

What do you think? Should a shrinking federal budget mean the meat and poultry industries get to oversee themselves?

The USDA is taking comments on the proposal until April 26. Check out what USDA inspectors are saying about the proposed changes, including the obstacles they already face that will be worsened if the new rule goes into effect. It doesn’t help that federal employees already lack adequate whistleblower protections. Submit a comment and tell USDA why privatizing inspection is a bad idea!

Related Reading:

The USDA’s Misuse Of The Natural Meat Label

Care2 Wins! Pink Slime Maker To Close 3 Of 4 Plants

Is The USDA Trying To Kill Our Kids?

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38 comments

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12:53AM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Thanks.

8:42AM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

7:55PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

Between the USDA and the FDA American food is gross!!! What's in meat is disgusting, dairy products are full of hormones, bread products have L-cysteine (dissolved human or pig hair or duck feathers), Castoreum is a secretion from the anal glands of beavers, and is used as a flavoring in vanilla ice cream and other foods, cochineal is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-colour dye carmine is derived and used in nearly all red or pink foods, and on and on. It's getting so I check every ingredient in the food I buy.

7:32PM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

Don't trust the USDA. The crooked inspectors should all be replaced. Of course the meat industry should not be allowed to regulate itself - what a ridiculous idea. That's rewarding them to be dishonest.

7:20PM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

Don't trust the USDA. Most

7:22AM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

That’s a very good point, Diane. I still think that fixing the whole system so that the chance of an unsafe or unfit carcass reaching the end of the line is almost impossible is the way to go, but I agree with you that the company can dodge responsibility by simply blaming and firing the employee inspector. It’s a tough one.

I read a comment (on another website) from a poultry inspector who already has to inspect 120 carcasses a minute. It’s absurd. He is against this privatisation proposition because he believes it will increase that amount.

10:17PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Lynda, we'll have to agree to disagree there, about company inspectors being more diligent. I read the information in the links, and it says they're proposing to increase inspections from 35 chickens to 175 chickens PER MINUTE? Really? That's a huge increase and personally, I find it illogical to comprehend anyone being able to inspect that many birds in that amount of time.

Yeah, a company "such as" Smithfield would really be expected to hire competent inspectors who actually would reject unfit product and not permit it to end up in the food chain? Yes, it would be nice to think they'd care if consumers got unsafe food or tainted meat, but that's not the case if they can legally police themselves. It's all about profit, and if they can unload it on the public, then it would be an easy thing to say, "Oh, that inspector didn't do his/her job and we fired him/her". That happens all the time. Meantime, people get sick.

3:34PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

What is shrinking our budget is military spending. Period! So we pay for these many wars with our tax dollars and pay the price with cuts to all our social services and protections. What's wrong with this picture?

3:08AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

The issue of companies being permitted to do their own assessments is not exactly the same as the one in this article, though it does illustrate that the USDA has more of an interest in company profits than in public health. If so, USDA poultry inspections are a waste of taxpayers’ money. In fact, a company inspector is more likely to be stricter with quality control, in order to avoid the horrendous cost of litigation, media exposure and public condemnation.

In this case, it appears the aim is to ‘clean up’ the whole process so that a dirty bird would be a rare bird. There are inefficient systems and unhygienic practices which need a total overhaul, and then a full-time USDA inspector would be unnecessary. It is worth looking into this possibility instead of immediately jumping to negative conclusions.

12:43AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

I looked into that, Stella B, and it appears that you are correct. Federal Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act in deregulating Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beet seeds in 2005: the USDA ignored the ban and White's subsequent order to destroy the crops once they had been planted. Apparently, the USDA was worried a GMO sugar beet ban would cause sweetener prices to rise, affecting all the manufactures of junk/processed food. Hmphff.

The decision to allow biotech companies to conduct their own assessments was to save money: I think neither the USDA or the companies should do it, but an independent, unaffiliated organization - and the biotech companies should pay for it.

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