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Call for U-turn on Increased Poultry Processing Line Speeds

03 March 2014

US - Congress leaders joined forces with poultry processing workers last week to call on the USDA to stop the proposal to allow poultry plants to increase processing line speeds.

The protestors said that the move is likely to lead to more worker injuries and threaten food safety.

The USDA plans to bring into force new regulations that will increase line speed from a maximum of 140 birds per minute to 175.

However, according to the Nebraska based action group Appleseed the increase in line speeds is likely to go ahead despite evidence that work speed is a primary contributor to worker injuries in meat and poultry plants.

“This rule – pitched as an attempt to modernise the industry – also would remove hundreds of federal inspectors from the processing lines and replace them with plant workers charged with the responsibility of identifying and removing tainted chicken. There are no training requirements for these workers,” Appleseed said.

“The USDA is the only federal agency regulating processing line speeds in poultry plants.”
The coalition, led by Rep. Thompson a Democrat from Mississippi and including Nebraska Appleseed, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Oxfam America, Food & Water Watch, and others briefed congressional staff about the dangers of this proposal last week..
“Increasing line speed not only increases the risk of injury to line workers, but also compromises the health of American consumers,” said Rep. Thompson.

“With over 28,000 Mississippi poultry workers and millions nationally, the USDA is unnecessarily endangering the lives of millions of Americans. I urge the Administration to move swiftly and stop the USDA from allowing increased line speeds in poultry plants.”

“Across the country, meat and poultry workers are suffering permanent injuries from impossible work speeds,” said Omaid Zabih, Nebraska Appleseed staff attorney.

“The poultry rule expands a pilot program that has had truly worrisome outcomes in both poultry and pork plants. This is a dangerous direction for poultry, and meatpacking and pork could be next.”

“We are deeply concerned about the implications of the proposed policy on the safety and well-being of workers and consumers,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the senior vice president for policy and advocacy.

“Furthermore, the proposed elimination of federal inspectors from the processing lines can potentially lead to a significant decrease in the quality of chickens in our supermarkets and restaurants and on our dinner tables.”

TheMeatSite News Desk

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