The U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied a petition by the National Chicken Council to remove the line speed limit on work at some slaughterhouses, a move that food safety advocates are calling a victory for workers and consumers. As the Ohio Valley ReSource reported in October, the National Chicken Council proposal could have increased the line speed for some workers in processing plants where accidents and injuries are already a concern.
Since then, the USDA has received more than 100,000 public comments. This week, the department's Food Safety Inspection Service turned the petition down.
"This is a direct rebuke of the poultry industry, whose business model is to sacrifice worker health in order to reap profits," said Debbie Berkowitz, a former senior official with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration who is now a senior fellow with the worker rights group National Employment Law Project.
Berkowitz and other food-safety and worker rights advocates opposed the council's petition, which the poultry industry said would have increased efficiency and modernized systems.
In September, the council petitioned the USDA to allow plants that operate under what's known as the New Poultry Inspection System a waiver that would remove the current limit of 175 birds per minute. But the Food Safety Inspection Service's acting administrator, Paul Kiecker, said the council's proposal is redundant.