Funky Chicken No More? USDA to Revamp Inspections
The government says that changing inspection procedures should help. In a cost-saving measure, the federal government is revamping how it inspects birds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that "it will be shifting its focus at chicken and turkey slaughter plants from supervising processing lines to evaluating a company's food safety procedures," reports Food Safety News.
The shift is to allow more inspectors to test plants' sanitation procedures and more testing of chickens for bacteria.
Though the shifts are voluntary from plant to plant, a few things are certain. Each plant has to have written rules to that ensure chickens contaminated with poop or pathogens don't go in the chiller. They must have procedures to prevent pathogen contamination. And they have to test early and often for microbial contamination.
Watchdog groups are skeptical of the changes. "USDA should modify its inspection program carefully to ensure that the program reduces the unacceptably high levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter in chicken and turkey," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said Friday. "One can't escape the fact that the government is shrinking and that historic programs like this one need to demonstrate their value. The proof will be in reduced contamination rates, leading to fewer deaths and illnesses."
In Florida, eggs are the only item more likely than chickens to transport salmonella, followed by vegetables, beef, and "multiple items."
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