Proposed changes to the current U.S. poultry inspection system by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will better protect the public from foodborne illnesses by reducing reliance on old-fashioned visual and sensory inspection and moving to prevention-oriented inspection systems based on actual risk to consumers, according to the National Chicken Council. The council released a statement in response to a report by ABC News on April 18 that expressed concerns over the changes.
Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the General Accounting Office and the USDA have established the need to modernize the poultry inspection program, and the proposed rule does that, said the council. As part of the changes:
- The USDA will remain in its oversight role and USDA inspectors will still be in every plant, looking at each chicken carcass to ensure the safety of chicken products and providing them with the USDA seal of approval for wholesomeness.
- Some USDA inspectors will be repositioned on inspection lines to play a greater role in the prevention of foodborne pathogens on chicken carcasses. These efforts will help better ensure that the vigorous testing and other protocols that companies have in place are working properly to prevent bacterial contamination.
"It is the goal and primary focus of the chicken industry and the USDA alike to provide consumers with safe, high quality and wholesome chicken," said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., National Chicken Council vice president of science and technology. "This proposed rule does not change that goal." The council plans to provide detailed comments to the USDA regarding the proposed rule, outlining concerns and seeking clarification in some areas.