Food Court reported earlier this month on the USDA’s plan to close offices nation-wide as part of its plan to reduce costs and “streamline.” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today plans for the Agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to “modernize the poultry industry” by reducing the number of government inspectors at poultry slaughter plants. The cost-saving shift would phase-out 1,000 government inspector jobs at poultry plants by allowing polutry companies take over the job of looking for visual flaws like bruises in chickens on the processing line. Inspectors would instead would “focus inspectors only on the areas that are crucial to food safety sampling for pathogens and keeping conditions sanitary.” The move would also save taxpayers $95 million in the first three years and prevent more illnesses from Campylobacte and Salmonella.
The secretary says the move could save the government as much as $95 million in the first three years.
“The modernization plan will protect public health, improve the efficiency of poultry inspections in the U.S., and reduce spending,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “The new inspection system will reduce the risk of foodborne illness by focusing FSIS inspection activities on those tasks that advance our core mission of food safety. By revising current procedures and removing outdated regulatory requirements that do not help combat foodborne illness, the result will be a more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.”
FSIS will continue to conduct on-line carcass-by-carcass inspection as mandated by law. This rule will allow FSIS personnel to conduct a more efficient carcass-by-carcass inspection with agency resources focused on more effective food safety measures. Data collected by the Agency over the past several years suggests that offline inspection activities are more effective in improving food safety. Inspection activities conducted off the evisceration line include pathogen sampling, and verifying that establishments are maintaining sanitary conditions and controlling food safety hazards at critical points in the production process.
There is a 90 day comment period before the rule is finalized. Look for industry watch groups to question FSIS’s data on illness prevention during the comment period.
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