Advocacy groups Federal agencies Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Safety advocates urge USDA to start over on poultry processing rule

Washington – A coalition of advocacy groups is calling for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restart the rulemaking process on a proposed poultry rule and address worker safety concerns.

In a July 23 letter to Howard Shelanski, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Safe Food Coalition and the Worker Health and Safety Coalition claimed USDA’s proposed rule allowing poultry processing plants to increase line speeds up to 175 birds per minute from the current 140 would have a “detrimental impact on the industry’s workers.”

The groups cited a NIOSH report showing that 42 percent of poultry workers at a North Carolina plant had carpal tunnel symptoms at current line speeds and a report from coalition members that featured interviews with hundreds of poultry workers reporting hand injuries and illnesses.

However, in a May blog post, Elisabeth Hagen, under secretary for food safety at USDA, insisted that “USDA would never put forward a rule that would put anyone in harm’s way."