Tell the USDA and Members of Congress to Keep Chicken Safe For Consumers

The U.S.D.A. Has a Dirty Little Secret and it Can Literally Make You Sick

Most Americans believe, and are under the impression that those who manufacture our food supply, and those who are charged with the task of ensuring that those who are responsible for monitoring those who produce and inspect our food supply, are doing everything in their power to keep us safe from food borne illnesses and death; this is simply not the case.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on January 20, 2012 that it plans to “modernize” the country’s poultry inspection. Although the USDA has wrapped up their proposal in some nice looking paper and slapped a fancy little bow on the top to make it look good, American consumers should be alarmed and outraged because if the government moves forward with its plans for the “modernization” of the poultry industry, that would mean that the poultry industry would be expected to monitor and ultimately regulate itself. USDA inspectors all over the country would lose their jobs, and the unsuspecting American public would be left to consume only God knows what.

The National Research Council, (NRC) released a report dated November 30, 2011 a little over a year after a widespread Salmonella outbreak in the United States. A half of a billion eggs were recalled and there was a nationwide food and safety panic. There were two Iowa companies that were brought before Congress to explain the deplorable conditions in their hen houses which included oozing manure, live rodents, and flies far too numerous to count, but this is an industry that the American Government believes is ethical enough to govern itself.

In the NRC report, an expert committee convened by the NRC at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture came out in favor of free, easy, public access to data gathered by the Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) on individual meat and egg processors. As it stands right now, some of this information can be obtained by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act, but certain information such as the names of specific facilities is typically not included. Transparency is not complete in regards to the processing of the foods that the American taxpayers and consumers eat.

The Fiscal year House Appropriations bill which has been promoted by the House Republicans, proposes to cut funding for the nations meat and inspection program again. 2012 will mark the 2nd year in a row that the USDA has seen major reductions which dramatically affect its budget, but this time is different. The House Agriculture Subcommittee plan urges the FSIS to implement the HACCP-Based Inspection Models project better known as HIMP to work in all poultry plants in the U.S.

HIMP has been operating in 20 poultry plants in the United States for just about 12 years give or take, and there has not been an independent review of the HIMP program since 2001. The only information that the USDA is providing to the public has been compiled by the USDA itself. In 2001 the government Accountability office strongly criticized HIMP, stating that design flaws “compromise the overall validity and reliability of its results”. “They put in a pilot program where it is not every bird that is looked at by a federal inspector, so that already occurs in 20 plants around the country. So in those plants it is actually the company employees that have the “opportunity” to do the type of inspection that USDA used to do. They don’t have to do that type of inspection.” Felicia Nester stated. Ms. Nester is an attorney, and a consultant for the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Program. “When the USDA started this pilot project, they kind of led us to believe that the company employees were going to take over what the USDA had done, and that already concerned us, but now what we’ve learned is the company employees don’t really have to anything, they do not even have to look at every chicken, all they have to do is meet the agencies standards.” Nester continued.

The agency standards in regards to food safety and human safety are pretty low, and there is greater evidence that poultry is a threat to human health. A recent study conducted by the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute found that four of the top riskiest pathogen food combinations involved are found in meat and poultry products. Campylobactor in poultry was ranked number one in terms of the highest annual disease burden in the United States.

Poultry inspectors are speaking out regarding some of the product that they feel that they have been forced to put into the buyers’ market, as they state that they have advised many of the plant workers to place sick or defective birds into condemned barrels, only to have those same untrained and unskilled workers tell them that the birds can be salvaged, and the sickly birds never make it to the condemned barrels, but onto the dinner table of an unsuspecting consumer instead. Many of the USDA Inspectors interviewed have asked to remain anonymous, however their claims and allegations were discussed with Stan Painter, AFGE (American Federation of Government Workers), Representative and Negotiator. Mr. Painter stated that he has witnessed multiple violations of the Poultry Inspection Act in plants located in the southern region of the country. “All we (USDA inspectors) are is window dressing at the end of the line, and the violations that we witness have been made legal by our judicial system,” Painter said.

The USDA is currently taking comments regarding the implementation of HIMP for a period of 90 days. That 90 day period began sometime during the last days of January 2012. The American Public deserves to know more about HIMP and they deserve some sort of an explanation as to why there has been no national campaign to get the word out about the intensions of the USDA and our Congressional leaders to move forward with a program that has not been independently investigated since 2001.

The American people also deserve to know why have not been informed of the so called comment period which would allow them to share their concerns with members of congress. It is reasonable to assume, that in order to comment, one would have to be made aware that there was a comment period and a subject that needed comment.

Attempts have been made to reach out to both Democratic and Republican Leaders in the United States House of Representatives; there has been no response from any of them at the time that this article was printed. The only political figure to respond to a request for an interview in regards to the “Modernizing” of the poultry industry has been State Sen. Chris Larson of the infamous Wisconsin 14.  

Congress will hold a hearing on their plans to "modernize" the nation's poultry industry on Thursday, March 8, 2012. Read full newspaper article at the link posted below.

We the undersigned believe that at the very least, we deserve safe food as American taxpayers and consumers. We do not believe that the nationwide implementation of the HIMP program allows for the type of oversight that is needed to keep the American people safe from deadly pathogens found in poultry.

Additionally we believe that all Americans should be afforded an opportunity to express our concerns regarding the safety of the poultry that we consume, and we do not believe that our Congressional leaders, or the USDA have done an adequate job in terms of notifying the public about the 90 day comment period.

We would like to see any further plans or discussions regarding the "modernizing" of our nation's poultry industry tabled or halted until the American people are notified of the USDA's intentions, and they are given the opportunity to comment and express their concerns.

Thank you for your time,

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