Beefs About Poultry Inspections

US - The USDA wants to change how it inspects poultry, focusing on microbial testing. Critics say the move could pose serious public health risks
calendar icon 6 February 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

"The change would produce chaos in the poultry inspection system"
Felicia Nestor, senior policy analyst for Food & Water Watch

Public interest in food inspection spikes whenever illness or death highlights the danger of bacterial contamination. In 2007, major recalls affected ground beef, frozen chicken, and turkey potpies. E. coli and salmonella were identified as culprits. Now, a new flap over inspection protocols is bubbling in Washington.

The Agriculture Dept. wants to reduce the number of federal inspectors in poultry slaughterhouses, moving to a "risk-based" inspection system. The new method aims to shift the inspection focus toward microbial testing from the physical examination of actual chicken carcasses. The agency maintains the effort will modernize the process, helping to allocate resources closer to the threats of food-borne contaminants.

Food safety groups and workers' unions allege such moves—which could later transfer to beef inspections—could jeopardize public safety and endanger meat processors. The changes would represent a fundamental shift in how meat is inspected in the U.S., and critics say the risks to consumers could be grave. "The change would produce chaos in the poultry inspection system," says Felicia Nestor, senior policy analyst for Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group based in Washington. "The nation's plant inspectors will have to watch diseased, infected birds going out to the public."

Source: BusinessWeek

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