Manufacturing Injury prevention

GAO questions USDA proposal for increased poultry line speeds

Washington – The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service failed to thoroughly evaluate pilot programs used as the basis for a proposed rule to increase line speeds in poultry-processing facilities, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The proposed rule would increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute from the current 140. In the Sept. 4 GAO report, one stakeholder suggests increased line speeds contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome and other injuries to poultry plant workers.

“The GAO report shows that by supporting [the pilot project], the Obama administration is prioritizing poultry industry economic interests over consumers and workers in poultry plants who face faster line speeds and increased safety risks,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director for consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, said in a press release.

The report – which primarily focuses on food safety issues – noted that not all the plants involved in the pilot project had lines running at the maximum speed. GAO added that the Food Safety and Inspection Service is working with NIOSH to determine the effects of increased line speed on workers at a plant not involved in the pilot project.