USDA delays decision on poultry inspection plan

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The US Department of Agriculture is delaying a decision on proposed changes to poultry inspections after an ABC World News report cast a critical eye on the plan and raised allegations of attempts by poultry companies to skew food-safety tests.

The report by Jim Avila, who also reported on lean finely textured beef, included an interview with a source identified as a poultry inspector, but whose identity was obscured and voice was altered. The anonymous source told ABC News that inspectors are aren’t really inspecting birds, rather they are monitoring them.

“We joke, we pat them on the butt and let them keep on going,” the source said.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) defended the plan, saying the proposed inspection system would better protect consumers from foodborne illnesses.

“The proposed inspection system will better protect the public from foodborne illnesses by reducing reliance on old-fashioned visual and sensory inspection and moving to prevention-oriented inspection systems based on actual risk to consumers,” NCC said in a statement. “Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the General Accounting Office and by USDA have established the need to modernize the poultry inspection program and this proposed rule does that.”

Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food &Water Watch, also was interviewed for the story and made allegations that poultry plants attempt to skew food-safety tests by adding extra “cleaning agents” to the birds when companies know tests are to be performed.

The NCC labeled as “patently false” allegations that poultry plants use “cleaning agents” to skew test results.

“Chicken plants use a variety of measures to protect food from unintentional contamination and to reduce bacteria levels at critical control points during the entire processing process,” the council said. “Bleach is not used on chickens or chicken products at any point during production.

“When a product moves through the plant, bacteria levels are reduced many hundreds of times to a fraction of what was naturally on the bird when it arrived. Claims that plants alter procedures during testing are patently false,” NCC concluded.

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