USDA Reforms Poultry Inspections For the First Time in 50 Years

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday reforms to decades-old processes for inspecting poultry facilities in a bid to cut down on the number of foodborne illnesses, but dropped an industry-backed plan to speed up production.

Under the new rule, poultry producers would be required, among other things, to perform microbiological testing at two points in their production process to prevent salmonella and campylobacter contamination.

The plan is designed to encourage a pro-active prevention approach instead of simply addressing contamination after it occurs. The move could prevent as many as 5,000 foodborne illnesses each year, USDA officials said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the plan “imposes stricter requirements on the poultry industry and places our trained inspectors where they can better ensure food is being processed safely.”

The agriculture department said maximum line speeds for chicken and turkey processing plants operated by companies such as Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Foster Farms would remain capped at 140 birds per minute “in response to public comment.”