House Democrats: Don’t speed up poultry plant lines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture should not propose a rule that would increase line speeds at poultry plants in the United States, a group of House Democrats said in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

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Rep. Rosa DeLauro | Photo courtesy of Office of Rosa DeLauro
Rep. Rosa DeLauro | Photo courtesy of Office of Rosa DeLauro

The U.S. Department of Agriculture should not propose a rule that would increase line speeds at poultry plants in the United States, a group of House Democrats said in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The effort was led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, who believes that any attempt to increase line speeds to would have detrimental effects on food, worker and animal safety.

DeLauro was joined by Reps. Chellie Pingree, Maine; Mark Pocan, Wisconsin; James P. Govern, Massachussets; Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas; Earl Bluemenauer, Oregon; Linda T. Sanchez, California; Luiz Gutierrez, Illinois; Jan Schakowsky, Illinois; Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire; Zoe Lofgren, California; Raul Grijalva, Arizona; and Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi.

 â€śWithout factoring in a potential increase to line speeds, the poultry industry is dangerous enough with the existing line speed. A combination of already break neck line speeds, use of knives and scissors when workers stand shoulder to shoulder, deafening noise levels, and slippery conditions all contribute to high levels of preventable work related injuries,: the letter read. “It is our hope that you will take these safety concerns seriously and reject the industry’s request to increase poultry plant line speeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has heard from the American public and the evidence is clear: any increase to line speeds would have serious negative consequences to the health of the workers who put food on America’s tables.

Perdue earlier urged to increase line speeds

The letter follows another letter written by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, who expressed an opposing view concerning line speeds. In a letter dated May 22, Collins suggested that lines at poultry plants could be sped up from 140 birds per minute to 175.

“While I take worker safety very seriously, evidence that faster line speeds would decrease worker safety appears limited at best,” Collins wrote. “In fact, evisceration, the step of production that the line speed would affect, is the most automated portion of poultry processing. The evisceration rooms only require workers and FSIS inspectors to monitor the machines as they complete the work. If a worker safety issue were to materialize, plants could alleviate any risks by staffing more workers on the production line or otherwise adjusting the process to accommodate any potential worker safety issues. FSIS inspectors regulate line speeds and have the ability to slow or stop a line at any point is the plant is not meeting process control.”

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in 2014 published new regulations through the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), which reduced the amount of birds that could be processed per minute to 140.

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