According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella bacteria, is estimated to cause about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States each year and about 23,000 hospitalizations. The inspection system has been the same for half the century (since 1957) and by the increasing numbers of foodborne illnesses a change is needed.
The USDA is proposing poultry food safety inspection changes. One of these changes proposes that the number of inspectors be reduced, while at the same time they are asking the examiners to pull more birds out for pathogen inspections. Furthermore, companies voluntarily will sort their own birds for quality flaws before presenting them to agricultural department persons. This will allow federal inspectors to further verify testing on the spot and inspect sanitation standards. In addition, all poultry plants will perform microbiological testing at two different points during the production process to ensure that they are controlling salmonella and campylobacter.
Currently, 140 birds are inspected per minute. The USDA wanted to propose an increase to 200 birds per minute but reconsidered that suggestion and will stay with the 140 birds/per minute. Recently, a U.S. pilot program successfully was lead with plants inspecting 175 birds per minute.
There are mixed emotions to USDA’s poultry inspection rule. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack suggested that the new plan “imposes stricter requirements on the poultry industry and places our trained inspectors where they can better ensure food is being processed safely.”
Whereas, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) pointed out that “this rule means fewer USDA food safety inspectors in poultry slaughter facilities, which is a recipe for more foodborne illness and more people in the hospital.”
Prevention is the key; the USDA wants to deal with contamination before it happens. This new rule will prevent up to 5000 illness from salmonella and campylobacter per year.