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They talk of “modernizing” and “streamlining,” but what does this really
mean? Action Alert!
It appears to mean that filthy chickens will now be “sanitized” using twice
as many dangerous chemicals.
The Obama Administration is proposing the implementation of “new methods in
poultry inspection.” Simultaneously, the USDA has proposed new regulations to
create just such a system—an expansion of a pilot program that has been
running since 1998—which would be nationally implemented this year, with
hopes to have it completely in place by 2014.
What are these “new methods” that would “modernize poultry slaughter
inspection” and “remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation?”
Fewer inspectors, less oversight, and, to compensate, an increased reliance
on “antimicrobial intervention”—generally the use of high levels of chlorine
or “antimicrobial agents other than chlorine [that reduce] APC, E. coli, and
Salmonella at a level equal to or better than chlorine.”
The overhaul would:
Speed up poultry inspection lines, increasing their speed to 140 chickens
per minute and between 45 and 55 turkeys per minute;
Reduce the number of federal inspectors by 40%, relying more on
inspectors whose salaries are paid by the poultry industry; and
Allow the increased use of chemicals—whether chickens are contaminated or
not—as a catchall for diseased birds that will inevitably escape notice with
the increased line speeds. Plants that currently use one or two chemical
treatments will now use as many as four.
Typically, poultry is sprayed with water and chemicals inside and out, moved
through spray cabinets where they are showered with other chemicals, and are
finally chilled and soaked in water containing between 20 and 50 ppm of
chlorine. The new proposal would also let chemicals be used on “air-chilled”
birds, which currently rely on low temperatures to kill pathogens or at least
discourage their spread. The proposal also encourages the use of chemicals
along the processing line, not just at the end.
The chemicals used in poultry plants are, of course, poisonous: their job is
to kill bacteria, but they are dangerous to humans as well. According to the
Washington Post, a federal poultry inspector named Jose Navarro died—his
lungs bleeding out—after six years of inspecting plants where these chemicals
were used. Another USDA inspector, Sherry Medina, developed a severe
respiratory infection one month after the Tyson Foods plant in Alabama where
she worked began using peracetic acid. “I would walk into the plant, and I’d
start wheezing. It was like I was choking to death. I coughed so hard, I
broke two ribs,” said Medina, who now collects disability.
Two dozen USDA inspectors have described reactions such as asthma, severe
respiratory problems, burns, rashes, irritated eyes, and sinus problems
(including ulcers) to the chemicals being used. Two of the most common
chemicals (chlorine and paracetic acid) have been linked to emotional
disturbances, damaged internal organs, and even death. We tell USDA workers
about the risks to their health from using these chemicals, but we don’t tell
the American public a word about the risk of eating chemically treated birds.
The USDA has provided almost zero hard data on what the pilot program has
achieved, but according to a private report to the House Appropriations
Committee, USDA plants already use accelerated line speeds, and workers are
being exposed to larger amounts of “sanitizing” chemicals than ever before. A
Freedom of Information request covering the pilot program by Food & Water
Watch revealed that employees are failing to catch defects in poultry
carcasses. One reason for this is the increased speed of the lines coupled
with the reduced number of inspectors. The other is that there is no
requirement that non-USDA inspectors receive any training at all.
“The agency claims that the salmonella rates in the pilot project plants are
lower than the rates for plants that receive conventional inspection. But
given the GAO criticism of the design of the program and the fact that
production practices can easily be manipulated during government testing
periods, [USDA’s] claims are suspect,” said Food & Water Watch executive
director Wenonah Hauter. Moreover, for many of the chemicals used, the
government has not conducted any independent research on their safety for
consumers who eat the food. As usual, they instead rely on data provided by
chemical manufacturers themselves!
Having fewer inspections and using more chemicals is what you get when your
only focus is the “bottom line.” The government will save about $90 million
over the next three years though staff reductions, and poultry plants will
increase their bottom line by $260 million per year. With less oversight and
faster inspection lines, they can process more poultry in a shorter period of
The irony is, while USDA wants to save money on poultry plants, they want to
spend money on horse plants! Horse slaughter was effectively banned in 2006
when Congress said USDA couldn’t spend any money on horse slaughterhouse
inspections, but that prohibition expired in 2011. Last week the USDA gave
its approval for a new horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico, with similar
plants seeking approval in Missouri and Iowa. Horsemeat cannot be sold as
food for humans in the US—but it can be exported. And, as Mike Adams noted,
it may well turn up in the US food supply anyway because it can be sold to
Mexico for human consumption, then re-labeled and shipped back into the USA
for use as a low-cost meat filler.
The government and the poultry industry is once again ignoring what real food
safety is: local, sustainable animals fed a natural, organic diet and treated
humanely—the fundamental principles of biodynamics—not ever more
industrialized, mechanized, and chemicalized! Food from CAFOs is neither safe
Action Alert! Tell USDA and President Obama not to finalize these new
“modernized” and “streamlined” regulations. Explain that it is the
overcrowding and inhumane treatment of animals that result in the filth and
disease that the chemicals are supposed to treat, and using even more toxic
chemicals on our food is not the answer. Tell them the rules should instead
emphasize the need for a reconsideration of confined animal feeding
operations, slower processing line speeds, cleaner facilities, more
inspections, and better-trained employees.
Deborah A. Ray, MT (ASCP)
Craig R. Smith
God Bless Everyone & God Bless The United States of America.
42 S. Sherwood Dr.
Belton, Tx. 76513