AFGE is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to block implementation of a new poultry inspection system that will impede federal inspection of chicken and turkey carcasses, potentially resulting in diseased or tainted poultry being sold to consumers.
The new rule, which went into effect on Monday, puts the fox in charge of the henhouse. Under the new inspection system, federal inspectors will no longer conduct comprehensive examinations of the carcass of each chicken and turkey processed in poultry establishments because the rule delegates that responsibility to poultry processors.
The new rule simultaneously reduces the number of federal inspectors on the production line from as many as four to one and authorizes a 400 percent increase in the maximum line speed per inspector from 35 birds per minute to 140 birds per minute. The sole federal inspector will be required to “inspect” approximately 2.3 chicken carcasses per second.
“The USDA’s new inspection process flies in the face of reality and will allow potentially contaminated and diseased poultry to be sold to American consumers,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “It’s ridiculous, dangerous and against the law, and it must be stopped.”
AFGE filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs in the case are AFGE and Charles Stanley “Stan” Painter, a poultry inspector who serves as president of AFGE’s National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals.
Under the new rule, USDA inspectors will be presented with carcasses only after they have been eviscerated, sorted, trimmed and reprocessed by employees working for the poultry processors. The new inspection system will impair the ability of federal inspectors to detect unwholesome and adulterated chickens because they will no longer be presented with the viscera of each carcass.
Adding insult to injury, the viscera, commonly known as giblets, will receive the official USDA inspection legend and will be sold for human consumption even though it has not been inspected for wholesomeness by a federal inspector.
“The Poultry Products Inspection Act requires a comprehensive inspection of chickens and turkeys before they are sold to the American public, but USDA’s plan will reduce the federal inspection process to a mere rubber stamp,” Painter said. “USDA has pushed through its dirty chicken rule over the objections of employee advocates, the public, and lawmakers. We are asking the court to step in and stop this insane rule from taking effect for the safety of federal inspectors, plant workers and consumers.”