Group sues to halt new poultry rules
By Michael Fielding on 9/12/2014
“These rules essentially privatize poultry inspection and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a news release. “The USDA’s decision to embrace the scheme —an initiative lobbied for by the meat industry for more than a decade — flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers. What’s more, we believe it’s illegal.”
In its suit, Food & Water Watch charges the new system violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), a law passed in 1957 that gives USDA the authority to protect consumer health and welfare by assuring that poultry products are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled and packaged.
The organization alleges that the new rules violate several statutory requirements, including the PPIA’s prescription that federal government inspectors, and not poultry slaughter establishment staff, are responsible for condemning adulterated young chicken and turkey carcasses. The suit states that the NPIS rules also violate the PPIA’s requirement that federal inspectors supervise slaughter establishment reprocessing, which is done to avoid the condemnation of adulterated birds.
Under the final rule, all poultry slaughter establishments must develop, implement, and maintain written procedures to ensure that carcasses contaminated with visible fecal material do not enter the chiller, and they must incorporate these procedures into their HACCP plans, or sanitation SOPs, or other prerequisite programs (also referred to collectively as “the HACCP system” in this document).
This final rule also requires that all poultry slaughter establishments develop, implement, and maintain written procedures to prevent contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens and fecal material throughout the entire slaughter and dressing operation, and that they incorporate their procedures into their HACCP systems.
In its comments submitted to the USDA on May 29, 2012, Food & Water Watch detailed the results of an analysis that it had done with federal government documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The analysis found that for 11 young chicken and three young turkey plants participating in a pilot program used to design this change in inspection rules, for the first shift of production in those plants from March to August 2011, establishment personnel missed more than 30 percent of conditions on chickens that includes blisters, bruises, external mutilation, fractures, sores, and scabs, and 60 percent of dressing defects such as the presence of feathers, oil glands, and trachea. The same analysis found that company employees missed more than 30 percent of conditions on turkeys that includes blisters, bruises, external mutilation, fractures, sores, and scabs, and 87 percent of dressing defects such as the presence of feathers, oil glands and trachea.