Can Poultry Plant Inspectors Hit Major League Fastballs?

Because that’s what it would take to inspect a chicken (boldface mine):

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service wants to expand a pilot program in which inspectors examine 175 birds per minute, rather than the current rate of 35 birds per minute. A federal inspector remains part of the process in the pilot program, but only at the end of the poultry inspection line. Expansion of the program could result in the loss of up to 1,000 federal inspector jobs….

A coalition of 16 individuals and 23 groups, including the Center for Food Safety, the Consumer Federation of America and OMB Watch, has joined AFGE in opposition. The petition the group signed cites food safety and labor concerns similar to those AFGE raised earlier this year. The group urges USDA in its petition to withdraw the proposal “until these issues and others can be adequately addressed.”

The petition particularly emphasizes concerns about new standards for testing for defects and signs of food-borne pathogens such as salmonella.

“Moreover, employers might pressure plant employees to let as many birds pass as possible,” the group wrote. “As a result, there would likely be an increase in the rate of ‘defects’ such as bruises, scabs, bile and ingesta on the carcasses.”

Ingesta, that’s the pill that helps when you’re having difficultly having erections, right? So this is a good thing, yes? Wait, what? Moving along….

Here’s what a former inspector thinks about the proposed inspection system (boldface mine):

“We’re moving back in time 100 years.” Citing journalist Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, an exposé of the dangerous standards of early meatpacking plants, Phyllis contends that the poultry industry is reverting to ancient, inadequate monitoring methods by implementing this new program. Phyllis remembers the line as a dizzying blur of carcasses. Speeds were so fast, that inspectors could do little more than sit there, incapable of anything remotely resembling oversight duties. If workers tried to keep up, they would risk injury. Case in point: Phyllis recalls one event where a worker was feverishly working to keep pace with the line despite an injury. The worker’s wrist had doubled in size from a knot caused by repetitive movement on the line, but continued to work despite the pain.

What could possibly go wrong? Well:

Under HIMP plans, federal inspectors are replaced with plant workers who are powerless to speak out against their employers, and are responsible for removing adulterated product. The inspector whistleblowers have witnessed that these sorters are “rebuked by supervisors” when they try to slow down the line for food safety concerns.

It’s the Wall Street regulatory model applied to your food. FREEDOM!!!

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