Chicken and pork

Speeding up and skipping out

December 19, 2013

So you might recall that, back in April, the Obama administration and the USDA announced plans to save money by scaling back on inspections and speeding up kill lines at poultry slaughterhouses. Food reporter Tom Philpott wasn’t thrilled then, and he’s still not happy about the plan now.

And he’s definitely grumpy about the revolving door between Big Ag consultant Deloitte Touche and the USDA. As Philpott reported earlier this month, a number of former food-safety employees have left the federal government for the plusher arms of Deloitte, including the USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, Elisabeth Hagen.

That’s no crime, of course, but it does make Philpott question the federal government’s emphasis on pushing rules that favor agribusiness:

If the USDA does make good on its oft-stated intention to finalize those awful new poultry rules, I think Hagen will be remembered most for pushing them ahead, to the delight of the poultry industry and the despair of worker and consumer-safety advocates.

And, as BusinessWeek recently reported, the push to speed up slaughterhouse production isn’t just happening at poultry plants; pork processors are increasing their rates and skimping on inspections as well, with concomitant jumps in worker injuries and food-safety violations.

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