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AFGE warns lawmakers against USDA poultry inspection reform

June 24, 2014
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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is asking lawmakers to support the industry in its attempts to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing reforms that it claims might put the nation's food safety at risk, as well as jeopardize worker safety at poultry processing plants.

According to the union, the USDA is planning to remove most of its own inspectors from poultry plants and delegate the task of overseeing production to processing plant employees, who lack the necessary training. In addition, the USDA has proposed that the speed at which slaughter lines move could be increased to 175 bird per minute, suggesting that the only federal inspector left in a plant will have a third of one second to inspect every bird carcass passing along the line for infection and contamination.

The union claimed that the reform has already been severely criticized not just by the industry but by a number of senators as well. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut tabled an amendment proposing that implementation of the USDA rule be prevented by blocking the money it would need to finalize it and put it into force. Her amendment was welcomed by the AFGE, which encouraged lawmakers to support it in the vote, the union said in a statement.

According to AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., the current poultry inspection system in not perfect but the USDA plan would lead to an even worse system, with potentially fatal consequences.

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