The Washington Post

Union, consumer groups to protest proposed changes to poultry inspections

Consumer groups and food inspectors represented by the American Federation of Government Employees will join forces Monday in a rally to protest proposed changes to the way poultry is inspected.

The protesters are scheduled to gather outside the Agriculture Department headquarters at Jefferson Drive in Southwest Washington at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed a new inspection system for young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments that is designed to improve the system’s effectiveness. The shift would focus resources on areas of the poultry production system that pose the greatest risk to food safety, relying less on armies of inspectors to eyeball animal carcasses in search of bruising, tumors or visible signs of contamination.

The new rules would reduce the number of inspectors on slaughter lines, and assign more inspectors to focus on testing poultry for pathogens and other high-risk contaminants. Some regulatory requirements the government considers outdated would be removed and replaced with more “flexible and effective testing,” according to the proposed changes.

Opponents, including the unions that represent inspectors, claim the changes would reduce the overall number of inspectors and increase the number of birds each inspector must examine, potentially putting consumers at risk.

Besides the AFGE, opponents of the changes who will be represented at Monday’s rally include the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, the Government Accountability Project and Food & Water Watch.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.


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