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Poultry rule prompts Food & Water Watch to take legal action against the USDA

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The interest group called Food & Water Watch is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to try and stop the implementation of the new Poultry Inspection System rule from taking effect.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service branch amended its new inspection legislation to allow poultry processing plants to increase their line speeds to operate at 140 birds per minute. Though, the final rule will permit 20 chicken plants operating under USDA’s pilot initiative to use higher line speeds.  In addition, the final rule shifts federal meat inspectors from production floor duties to do more offline inspection related tasks, which means much of the oversight power is now given to plant employees.

Food & Water Watch, argues that the new system violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act, a law passed in 1957 that says USDA has a duty to protect consumer health. The organization who filed the suit, alleges that the new rules violate a number of statutory requirements, and infringes on the requirement that government inspectors supervise slaughter processing.

According to court documents, the suit is being brought by Food & Water Watch, and two individual plaintiffs, Margaret Sowerwine and Jane Foran. Defendants include the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other high ranking officials from the USDA. The filings say that consumers would be put into harm’s way if the new rule was to be implemented.

The group also says that the government did not allow for an opportunity to provide comment through an online forum or a public meeting. Specifically, the Food & Water Watch says that there were changes made to the final rule that were not outlined in the proposal for public review.

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