No relief
The National Chicken Council petition from September faces opposition from animal welfare activists.
WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is takingpublic comment for 60 daysafter a petition was filed to waive line speed restrictions under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS).

The National Chicken Council (NCC) requested its demands in a Sept. 1 petition.  The limit for line speed was set to 140 birds-per-minute under the Obama Administration for most plants.

Under the proposed waiver:

•    An eligible establishment would have to participate in both NPIS and SIP (Salmonella Initiative Program)

•    The establishment would develop a process for monitoring and ensuring it is maintaining process control at its chosen line speed, along with corrective actions to regain process control if lost; and

•    The Agency would waive the line speed limitation in 9 C.F.R. § 381.69(a) and instead allow participating establishments to operate at any line speed at which they can maintain process control.

Several non-profit organizations and unions met with the USDA on Oct. 16 and raised their concerns about the waiver program.

“Increasing line speed would undermine the safety of workers and consumers, and extract a high price in the end,” said Minor Sinclair, director of Oxfam America’s US domestic program, one of the groups opposing the waiver. “These jobs are already dangerous, dirty, and difficult. Faster line speed would make them unbearable.”

Oxfam America and 12 other groups said in a joint statement that the NCC petition “asks the USDA to set up a system that would allow poultry plants to run their lines in violation of federal rules, removing any line-speed limits – and endangering both workers and consumers.”

NCC argued in its petition that increasing line speeds will not jeopardize food safety. According to the request, FSIS recognized in the final rule implementing NPIS that “data from the HIMP (HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project) pilot demonstrate that establishments operating under HIMP are able to maintain process control at line speeds of up to 175 bpm.”

The NCC goes on to say that this data demonstrates that plants operating at line speeds authorized under HIMP were “capable of consistently producing safe, wholesome, and unadulterated product, and that they consistently met pathogen reduction and other performance standards.”