Controversy Behind USDA’s New Poultry Inspection Guidelines

American poultry plants now have the option to conduct their own inspections for defects and contaminants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released new poultry-inspection rules that will give independent plant operators the opportunity to conduct their own inspections for bird defects and contaminants, the agency announced on Thursday, July 31.

The new rules are designed so that government inspectors will be able to focus on other food-safety issues, as well as “increase the chances of us detecting problems by placing the burden of finding contaminates such as salmonella on the plants,” announced Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture.

If a plant chooses not to conduct its own inspections, a government inspector will remain on the processing line.

Although the new rules are designed to streamline the inspection process, some food-safety groups have spoken out against the department’s regulations on inspection speeds, which are designed to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries, reports The New York Times.

On the contrary, agricultural conservation groups and animal welfare groups alike have alleged that the inspection limits — 140 birds per minute — do not protect “consumers, workers or animals,” as the current average processing time is 130 birds per minute.

Under the new guidelines, an inspector would theoretically “still have to inspect 2.33 birds every second — an impossible task that leaves consumers at risk,” an executive director of Food & Water Watch told The New York Times.

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.