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Group Calls for Action over Inspection Staffing Shortages

14 February 2014

US - US consumer action group Food & Water Watch has called on to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to investigate the staffing deficiencies at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The group claims the deficiencies have been brought about by a policy to hire temporary meat and poultry inspectors instead of full-time permanent inspection personnel.

“We believe that the USDA has put food safety in jeopardy by this reckless personnel policy,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

“This policy was hatched so the agency could implement its Filthy Chicken Rule, which deregulates poultry inspections - a move so fraught with controversy that it has yet to be finalised.

“What the USDA has done is put the entire meat and poultry inspection system on the brink of collapse.”

Food and Water Watch says the hiring policy began in May 2012, soon after the comment period closed on the controversial poultry inspection rule that USDA proposed that would privatise poultry inspection by eliminating some 800 USDA inspector positions, while increasing line speeds from 140 to 175 birds per minute.

Even before the rule was finalised, the USDA began to advertise for “temporary Food Inspectors”, the group says.

“We urge Secretary Vilsack to withdraw the proposed rule on poultry inspection, halt its privatised inspection pilot in hog slaughter, stop any plans to privatise inspection in beef slaughter, and return to a normal hiring policy to attract the best possible candidates to protect our food supply,” added Ms Hauter.

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