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Food & Water Watch Exposes USDA Inspection Staffing Shortages
WASHINGTON - February 10 - Today, Food & Water Watch sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to investigate the staffing deficiencies at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) brought about by a questionable policy to hire temporary meat and poultry inspectors instead of full-time permanent inspection personnel.
“We believe that the USDA has put food safety in jeopardy by this reckless personnel policy,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This policy was hatched so the agency could implement its Filthy Chicken Rule, which deregulates poultry inspections—a move so fraught with controversy that it has yet to be finalized. What the USDA has done is put the entire meat and poultry inspection system on the brink of collapse.”
The hiring policy began in May 2012, soon after the comment period closed on the controversial poultry inspection rule that USDA proposed that would privatize poultry inspection by eliminating some 800 USDA inspector positions, while increasing line speeds from 140 to 175 birds per minute. Even before the rule was finalized, the USDA began to advertise for “temporary Food Inspectors.”
The job announcement was very clear with its intent: “As the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) looks to transition through modernization and implementation of the New Poultry Slaughter Inspection System, the Agency is announcing temporary Food Inspector positions to facilitate the transition and to help ensure seamless implementation should the Agency decide to proceed with implementation of the new system.”
“We urge Secretary Vilsack to withdraw the proposed rule on poultry inspection, halt its privatized inspection pilot in hog slaughter, stop any plans to privatize inspection in beef slaughter, and return to a normal hiring policy to attract the best possible candidates to protect our food supply,” concluded Hauter.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.