After months of deliberating, the USDA under the Trump Administration has rejected The National Chicken Council’s (NCC) petition to raise poultry inspection line speeds. The NCC petitioned in September to allow inspection plants run at any speed that workers could handle, eliminating the speed limit of 140 birds-per-minute.
The administration explained that there was insignificant data supporting the NCC’s claims that inspectors can conduct their jobs effectively at faster speeds than those already set.
The denied petition was not the first rejection the NCC has had to face regarding the subject of poultry inspection speeds. The Obama administration also disapproved of increasing the limit any faster than it currently is.
Despite denying the overall industry to change the speeds, some poultry plants have been granted waivers allowing them to inspect at speeds of up to 175 birds-per-minute. The NCC is encouraged by this news, hoping that more plants will request and be granted the waiver to speed up the inspection process and hopefully increase the efficiency of the poultry industry in this way.
Still, opposition towards the increasing speed worries that the poultry employees will be in danger if they are pushed any further than the current limits. However, the process is mostly automated in many poultry plants now so the risk to human safety is minimal. The problem comes in the form of possible increasing risk of salmonella.
NCC stated in their petition that when they surveyed plants that increased their speed lines to 175 birds-per-minute the food safety risks did not increase. They stated that although acceptable samples of E coli increased, unacceptable samples of E coli and other containments decreased, and the prevalence of salmonella stayed the same as in current speed lines.
The USDA has however, recently proposed to increase the inspection lines for the swine industry. The agency intends to document how the speed increase effects the industry over time.