Under the new rule, poultry producers would be required, among other
things, to perform microbiological testing at two points in their
production process to prevent salmonella and campylobacter
The plan is designed to encourage a pro-active prevention approach
instead of simply addressing contamination after it occurs. The move
could prevent as many as 5,000 foodborne illnesses each year, USDA
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the plan "imposes stricter
requirements on the poultry industry and places our trained
inspectors where they can better ensure food is being processed
The agriculture department said maximum line speeds for chicken and
turkey processing plants operated by companies such as Tyson Foods,
Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson Farms and Foster Farms would remain
capped at 140 birds per minute "in response to public comment."
Tom Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said not
allowing faster speeds meant "that politics have trumped sound
A successful U.S. pilot program had been conducted with plants
operating at 175 birds per minute, and broiler plants in several
other countries "operate at line speeds of 200 or more birds per
minute," Brown said.
Under a separate, voluntary system, companies would sort their own
birds for quality defects before presenting them to agricultural
As companies become more proactive, the number of government
inspectors would be cut.
"By allowing plant employees to conduct some preliminary sorting
duties, federal inspectors will be freed to further verify testing
on the spot, examine sanitation standards and enforcing safeguards
throughout a processing plant," said Joel Brandenberger, president
of the National Turkey Federation.
[to top of second column]
The salmonella bacteria is estimated to cause about 1.2 million
illnesses in the United States each year, with about 23,000
hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Campylobacter is the second most reported foodborne
illness in the United States.
California's Foster Farms recently recalled 170 different chicken
products linked to an outbreak of salmonella that caused hundreds of
Noting that incident, The Center for Science in the Public Interest,
an advocacy group, said reducing government inspectors was a bad
decision. "This is hardly the time to reduce USDA’s oversight of the
poultry industry," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith
The rules will be published in the Federal Register and posted
online at www.fsis.usda.gov/poultryinspection.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in
Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)
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