A coalition of legislators is urging the Obama Administration to abandon plans it made for overhauling the regulatory process guiding commercial poultry production, essentially making it easier for large-scale producers to skirt the law and sell potentially tainted products to the public. TheHill.com reports that dozens of congressmen recently penned a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former biotechnology executive, urging him to scrap the negligent proposal.
As part of the long-term “food safety” modernization scheme signed into law by Obama back in 2011, the new poultry guidelines would mandate fewer federal inspectors at poultry processing plants. Current guidelines mandate that one federal inspector be assigned to the processing line for every 35 birds that pass per minute. These same guidelines also require that no more than 140 birds pass through the line during a given minute.
But if the administration gets its way, only one federal inspector would be required to monitor the production line, which under the new paradigm would also be permitted to process as many as 175 birds per minute. This jump from 140 birds per minute represents a 25 percent increase in allowable production speed, a change that would benefit only poultry producers at the expense of public health.
“While we strongly support modernizing our food safety system and making it more efficient, modernization should not occur at the expense of public health, worker safety, or animal welfare,” wrote the 68 House members in a letter to Vilsack. Among those who signed the letter were Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
Regulatory overhaul will decrease spending, but at what cost?
In defense of the plan, Vilsack is claiming that it will result in massive savings for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which has a multi-billion-dollar annual budget in great need of some trimming. According to TheHill.com, savings to the tune of $7.5 billion annually would result from the changes, allowing more funding for other important projects.
But the societal costs of reducing plant inspections and speeding up processing are perhaps more serious, as decreased oversight will likely lead to rampant abuse of the system by unscrupulous producers, many of whom have proven that they will stop at nothing to maximum their profits. Faster production also means increased likelihood of contaminated meat slipping by, ending up on the dinner plates of Americans.
“This proposed rule would let the fox guard the hen house, at the expense of worker safety and consumer protection,” reads the letter, which refers to the dastardly proposal as the “filthy chicken rule.”
Obama proposal unscientific, weakening standards for safe food production
The letter goes on to highlight that the new rules would further weaken the food safety inspection process by allowing poultry producers to basically opt-out of the pathogen-testing process. Without mandatory, system-wide testing requirements for potentially harmful microbes like Salmonella and Campylobacter, consumers will be further put at risk of contracting disease from tainted products.
“FSIS’s proposal… hobbles what should be a fundamental goal of modernization — to create a system that tracks rates of contamination and facilitates continuous improvement in the poultry industry to decrease those rates throughout the system,” asserts the letter.
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