Lawmakers to USDA: Withdraw proposed rule on poultry line speeds

Washington – Citing worker safety concerns, members of Congress are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withdraw a proposal that would increase production line speeds in the poultry-processing industry.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s proposed Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule would speed up production lines by 25 percent to 175 birds per minute for workers tasked with cutting, pulling, grabbing or hanging poultry.

In a March 17 letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, 68 members of Congress urged the department to withdraw the proposal until it has “thoroughly addressed” concerns raised about the rule’s impact on worker safety, public health and animal welfare. Workers on poultry production lines go long intervals repeating the same motions, leading to thousands of disabling injuries and one of the highest injury and illness rates in any industry, according to the letter, which cited a 2005 Government Accountability Office report.

“Production line speed is a leading cause of unacceptably high levels of worker injuries in the poultry industry,” the letter said. “The proposed FSIS rule would exacerbate these unsafe conditions.”