WASHINGTON- In a reversal from a Trump administration policy, the new US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) withdrew its proposed rule to increase line operating speeds at poultry plants.
The FSIS implemented a waiver system in 2018 to permit chicken processors participating in the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) to operate line speeds exceeding 175 birds per minute.
The proposed amendments would allow certain young chicken establishments to slaughter birds more efficiently while continuing to ensure food safety and effective online carcass inspection," the original rule read in Nov. 2020.
The National Chicken Council responded to the news of withdrawal with a statement from Ashley Peterson, PhD, and senior vice president of the association's scientific and regulatory affairs.
Peterson said freezing all rulemakings currently underway and reviewing them is a standard process for every incoming administration. She said approval of the rule would move the poultry industry forward.
“It would be unfortunate for the new administration to ignore three decades of science, data, and court decisions, in a move that would hamstring the US poultry industry on a global scale,” Peterson said. “This might have been the most deliberative and studied rule that has ever been proposed.”
Industry groups, including the NCC, have disputed claims regarding line speed concerns saying that enough time was given for public comment on the line speed waivers and processing lines.
The NCC pointed to its Chicken Check In section previously, where it said facilities operated in excess of 140 birds per minute (bpm) for more than 25 years
"While the poultry industry has been safely increasing line speeds over the past 25 years, our injury and illness rate has fallen 86% and is now at an all-time low, according to the most recent data from the Department of Labor," Peterson said.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone released a statement of approval for the withdrawal.
“Even though it has been less than a week since his inauguration, President Biden is already showing the type of commitment to the health and safety of front-line food workers that the American people expect and deserve, including actions to strengthen OSHA workplace safety enforcement and stop the dangerous push to increase poultry plant line speeds,” Perrone said.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, also praised the Biden administration's decision.
“The Trump administration's proposed line-speed rule would have been a senseless giveaway to the industry at the expense of Americans' health and safety,” Hauter said. “Nothing is more egregious. But this is just the first of many steps the USDA must pursue to demonstrate a long-term commitment to prioritizing public health and safety over corporate profits."