Washington, D.C. – Today, advocacy group Food & Water Watch sent a letter to USDA Deputy Under Secretary Mindy Brashears urging her to revoke the line speed waiver for the Norman W. Fries poultry plant (Establishment P6505) located in Claxton, Georgia for consistently failing USDA’s Salmonella performance standard. The Claxton Poultry plant was part of the original 20 young chicken plants that participated in the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), which reduced the number of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors assigned to slaughter lines, replaced them with company employees, and permitted plants to increase slaughter line speeds above 140 birds per minute (bpm) through a regulatory waiver.
“It is unconscionable that this plant has been permitted to retain its line speed waiver,” said Tony Corbo, Senior Lobbyist of the food program at Food & Water Watch. “We have opposed all efforts to privatize inspection and to permit industry to be able to increase slaughter line speeds. FSIS now has criteria to determine whether a line speed waiver should be revoked or granted. It is a fraud that FSIS still permits this plant to keep its line speed waiver after consistently failing a critical food safety criterion.”
In August 2014, FSIS created the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) that permitted more young chicken plants to adopt the privatized inspection model. Only plants that were part of the original HIMP pilot, including the Claxton Poultry Plant, were permitted to run their slaughter line speeds up to 175 bpm; all other plants converting to NPIS were capped at 140 bpm.
Because of pressure brought by the poultry industry on the Trump administration, FSIS announced in February 2018 that it would establish criteria upon which it would evaluate requests from additional young chicken plants to raise their slaughter line speeds to 175 bpm. In September 2018, USDA finalized the criteria in a Federal Register Notice. In October 2018, USDA sent letters to the 20 young chicken plants that had line speed waivers informing them of the new criteria that needed to be met in order for them to continue to run their slaughter lines up to 175 bpm. One of the criteria was that the plant had to have passed the FSIS Salmonella performance standard for young chicken carcasses. Establishment P6505 has consistently failed that standard ever since FSIS began posting its regulatory testing results on its website in January 2018. The most posting occurred on February 1, 2019. According to information posted on the USDA website, Establishment P6505 still has a line speed waiver.
“Dr. Brashears has just been appointed as USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety while she waits for Senate confirmation of her nomination to be Under Secretary. She can prove in her early tenure at USDA that she will put food safety ahead of industry interests by doing the right thing and revoking this plant’s line speed waiver,” added Corbo.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]