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USDA inspection rule will not increase poultry-processing line speeds

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Washington – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s controversial final rule on its New Poultry Inspection System is set to be published and, in response to public comment, will not increase the maximum speed of processing lines.

Under the rule, which USDA on July 31 said would soon be published in the Federal Register, maximum line speeds will remain capped at 140 birds per minute. An earlier plan proposed increasing the top speed to 175 birds per minute, but critics said the faster pace could have led to more injuries among poultry slaughterhouse workers.

The National Council of La Raza, a Washington-based Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, in a July 31 statement stated that it is pleased production lines will not speed up. Line speed is a major factor in the high rate of traumatic injuries among poultry workers, of whom more than one-third are Latino, according to the council.

Still, some safety advocates are disappointed. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement that the plan lacks accompanying worker safety regulations to deal with musculoskeletal disorders and other injuries suffered by plant workers and USDA inspectors.

The rule had been sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review on July 10.