WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture made significant revisions to a rule that overhauls the nation's poultry inspection system, and the public should have the chance to comment on those changes before the rule takes effect, argued the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

AFGE sent 
a letterto Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Howard Shelanski, administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, calling on the agencies to publish the revised version of the proposed rule, open a 120-day public comment period and hold public meetings on the revised proposed rule.

"The USDA's original plan has been roundly criticized as a blatant attempt to cut costs without regard to the serious ramifications on the health and safety of consumers and plant workers," said J. David Cox Sr., AFGE national president. "The public has a right to see what changes USDA has made to its cost-cutting plan and be able to respond to the revised plan before any action is taken."

USDA has said the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule would reduce the risk of foodborne illness by allowing Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel to focus on testing and other activities related to foodborne illness prevention.

The Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule would allow company employees in most poultry-slaughter plants to check eviscerated carcasses for visual defects such as bruising and sorting out those that are unlikely to pass federal inspection. A single federal inspector would be stationed at the end of the line, just before the chill tank, to conduct a final visual inspection. Additionally, plants would be permitted to run their evisceration lines at higher speeds than allowed by the existing inspection systems.