U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC, led a bipartisan group of thirteen senators in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack that expresses support for the proposed Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule and inquires as to when it will be finalized. The letter was addressed on December 12.
"It has been nearly 60 years since USDA updated poultry slaughter inspection standards," said Hagan. "This long-overdue rule would help transition the inspection process to a science- and risk-based system that can better detect and prevent foodborne pathogens harmful to public health."
The USDA last updated chicken and poultry inspection standards in 1957. Under the new rule, plant employees will perform more quality assurance tasks -- such as detecting visible carcass defects -- and free up federal inspectors to focus on sanitation standards, blood testing, and antimicrobial controls throughout the entire production process, according to Hagan.
It is estimated that at least 5,000 foodborne illnesses would be prevented if the poultry inspection system were modernized. Additionally, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) projects that almost $80 million in health care costs would be saved on an annual basis by preventing foodborne illnesses, Hagan said.