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NCL files formal complaints with USDA about modernization act: bad news for consumers and workers

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May 29, 2012
Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC—Today the National Consumers League (NCL), whose mission is to promote the interests of both workers and consumers, filed formal comments with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the agency’s proposed rule “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection.”

In its comments, NCL expressed serious concerns over the proposed changes. Today, USDA officials inspect each bird that is slaughtered, checking for visible defects that could indicate food safety concerns. The agency’s proposed rules would alter this system, privatizing some functions and increasing line speeds to up to 175 birds per minute.

“We are concerned about several aspects of this proposal,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “First, that faster line speeds will result in decreased safety, for both food safety and worker safety.” One major concern is that the proposed rule does not mandate any training for plant employees. “While the agency has indicated it will issue guidance on training, the lack of standards for training could well result in uneven implementation and inconsistent levels of safety,” said Greenberg.

“With line speeds approaching an astonishing 200 birds per minute, we are also concerned about the safety of men and women working on the line, slaughtering and inspecting these birds,” Greenberg added. “Already at current line speeds, close to sixty percent of workers suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome. Increased line speeds will undoubtedly lead to even higher rates of injuries.”

“Because of our strong reservations over both the worker and food safety implications of this proposed rule, we urge the agency to withdraw the proposed rule,” said Greenberg. The National Consumers League joins other consumer groups, several unions and the National Council of La Raza in opposing the proposed rule and asking that it be withdrawn.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.