Take Action: Ask the USDA to Rescind Its ‘Filthy Chicken Rule’
So what is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plan to protect consumers and workers? It wants to privatize poultry inspection, putting companies in charge of their own inspections, and then increase the slaughtering line speed. In other words, the USDA’s new “plan” will put both consumers and workers at greater risk.
Please sign our petition, asking the USDA to rescind what Food & Water Watch has dubbed the “Filthy Chicken Rule.”
Food & Water Watch calls the USDA’s plan the “Filthy Chicken Rule,” because the plan almost guarantees higher levels of contaminants in slaughtered birds. First, by drastically reducing the number of government inspectors. And second, by increasing the line speeds from 140 birds to 175 birds per minute.
Potentially harmful bacteria lurks in almost all U.S. chicken. That’s according to a recent Consumer Reports survey that found, “More than half of the samples contained fecal contaminants. And about half of them harbored at least one bacterium that was resistant to three or more commonly prescribed antibiotics.”
Yet if the USDA gets its way, the few government inspectors left would have to inspect three birds per second. Inspect? They’d be whizzing by so fast they’d hardly see them!
We could also call the USDA’s new plan the “Dead Inspector Rule.” With breakneck line speeds at slaughterhouses, poultry processing plants are turning to toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals to remove contaminants that escape notice. These chemicals can be deadly. Plant inspectors and workers exposed to chemicals like chlorine and parecetic acid complain of respiratory problems. Many cough up blood. Some experience lung hemorrhage and, at least one has died of lung and kidney failure.
Or maybe we should call it the “Injured Worker Rule.” As editors at the Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News Observer, Bellingham Herald and Gaston Gazette have pointed out, faster line speeds mean more injuries.
If you’ve eaten chicken anytime since 1998, you may have already eaten food from slaughterhouses operating under the USDA’s proposed “Filthy Chicken Rule.” Tyson has been piloting the plan at some of its poultry plants for years. According to a Government Accountability Office report, under the pilot program, “sorting responsibilities [removing unsafe birds from production] on the slaughter line [were] not required or standardized and faster line speeds allowed under the pilot projects raise[d] concerns about food safety and worker safety.”
It’s time to tell President Obama and Secretary Vilsack to protect consumers and workers by abandoning their "Filthy Chicken Rule.”