The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467;

USDA Quietly Approves New Line Speed Waivers for Chicken Plants

Salmonella performance standard violator still has its waiver; JBS benefits most under new program established by its food safety chief


Last night, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a new list of chicken slaughter plants that have been approved to increase their line speeds to 175 birds per minute under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). Two new plants were quietly added to the list - one located in Sanford, North Carolina and operated by JBS subsidiary Pilgrim's Pride Corporation (Establishment P1201), and another located in Dothan, Alabama and operated by Wayne Farms, LLC (Establishment P7342). Food & Water Watch files weekly Freedom of Information Act requests to FSIS asking for the letters submitted by companies that request regulatory waivers. To date, Food & Water Watch has not received the request letters for these two plants.

Remaining on the list is Establishment P6505 located in Claxton, Georgia and operated by Norman W. Fries. That plant has failed the FSIS salmonella performance standard and is in violation of the new criteria established by the agency for chicken plants to qualify for line speed waivers. Food & Water Watch sent a letter to Deputy Under Secretary Mindy Brashears on February 7, 2019 asking why that plant still retained its line speed waiver. Food & Water Watch has yet to receive a response.

The USDA's new list of plants that have received line speed waivers reveals that JBS subsidiary Pilgrim's Pride operates the most plants that have received them (six of the 26 plants, or 23 percent). The Vice President for Global Food Safety for JBS is Alfred Almanza, who served as the FSIS Administrator when the regulations for NPIS were finalized in 2014.

"There are so many problems with this latest list of plants with line speed waivers," said Tony Corbo, Senior Lobbyist with the food program at Food & Water Watch. "First, it confirms there are no consequences for companies that violate safety protocols like the salmonella performance standard. Second, it shows a lack of transparency when it comes to which plants are requesting the waivers. Third, and probably most troubling, is the fact that the food safety advisor for JBS--the company benefiting the most from these waivers--oversaw the agency as it finalized this program. Allowing faster line speeds is a danger to food safety and worker safety in the pursuit of profits. The revolving door is in full effect in this scenario."

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