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USDA overhauls poultry inspections

From The Columbian

The Obama administration is overhauling poultry plant inspections — the first changes to the system in more than 50 years — a move it says could result in 5,000 fewer foodborne illnesses each year.

The number of government poultry inspectors will decrease, but those who remain will focus more on food safety than on quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. More inspectors would check the facilities to make sure they are clean.

The changes are voluntary, but many of the country’s largest poultry companies are expected to opt in. The chicken and turkey industries swiftly praised the new rules, saying they would modernize their business.

Federal law requires that government inspectors be present in poultry processing plants. Right now, many USDA inspectors stand in one place on the production line and check for visual defects. This doesn’t do much to ensure the birds are safe to eat, since common poultry pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter are invisible. The new rules would better train inspectors to find hazards in the plant and would require all companies — whether they opt in or not — to do additional testing for pathogens.

The final rule abandons a controversial part of the original proposal that would have allowed companies to increase the speeds of processing lines in the plants. USDA said that increasing line speeds wouldn’t affect food safety, but consumer groups argued it could make it harder to detect obvious contamination and harm worker safety.

Read the full article here
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