Funky Chicken No More? USDA to Revamp Inspections

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Studies show that two-thirds of chickens are contaminated with salmonella, which would especially be troubling if we ate it raw.

The government says that changing inspection procedures should help. In a cost-saving measure, the federal government is revamping how it inspects birds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that "it will be shifting its focus at chicken and turkey slaughter

plants from supervising processing lines to evaluating a company's food

safety procedures," reports Food Safety News.

The shift is to allow more inspectors to test plants' sanitation procedures and more testing of chickens for bacteria.

Though the shifts are voluntary from plant to plant, a few things are certain. Each plant has to have written rules to that ensure chickens contaminated with poop or pathogens don't go in the chiller. They must have procedures to prevent pathogen contamination. And they have to test early and often for microbial contamination.

"The draft rule was met with praise from industry," says Food Safety News. My question is, what were they doing before?

The president of the Meat Institute, James Hodges, said, "While our knowledge has grown exponentially in the last two decades,

there have been no major changes to our federal poultry inspection

system during this period." So, not much.

Watchdog groups are skeptical of the changes. "USDA should modify its

inspection program carefully to ensure that the

program reduces the unacceptably high levels of Salmonella and

Campylobacter in chicken and turkey," Michael Jacobson, executive

director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said Friday.

"One can't escape the fact that the government is shrinking and that

historic programs like this one need to demonstrate their value. The

proof will be in reduced contamination rates, leading to fewer deaths

and illnesses."

In Florida, eggs are the only item more likely than chickens to transport salmonella, followed by vegetables, beef, and "multiple items."

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