Federal food safety inspectors already have so much to do, why not just hand over the job of watching birds go down an assembly line to factory employees? What could possibly go wrong? A whole lot, say opponents of a current proposal by the Agriculture Department to allow private companies take over inspections at poultry plants.
Some in the agency say such a program would pose a health risk by allowing contaminated meat to reach customers, reports the New York Times. Currently, service inspectors from the Food Safety and Inspection Service are stationed on the line to examine birds for blemishes, feces or visible defects before they go on to be processed and ultimately, delivered up for your consumption at the grocery store.
As for what these newly-freed inspectors would be doing instead, the proposal would send them to spend more time “evaluating the plant’s bacteria-testing and other safety programs.”
There are those within the agency who don’t approve, however, as they say it would put consumers at risk for diseases caused by salmonella.
Apparently this pilot program has already been run in 20 plants since 1998, and it’s already had problems. According to affidavits given to the Government Accountability Project, several inspectors at those pilot program plants report being put at the end of the line, making it impossible for them to spot bad birds.
They also reported many incidents of poultry plant employees letting birds with poo or “other substances” pass by, and if the inspectors tried to remove them, they were yelled at.
Of course, Big Chicken is all about this idea.
“The proposed rule is the logical next step in the modernization of poultry inspection,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council in Washington.
We’re going to go ahead and cross our chicken nugget-loving fingers that this thing doesn’t happen. Or possibly just stay away from poultry altogether, for fear of feces.
Plan to Let Poultry Plants Inspect Birds Is Criticized [New York Times]