In late 2019, USDA established the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), which removed federal limits on the speed of production lines and, since the pandemic hit, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has granted approximately 20 waivers to meat and poultry processing plants looking to increase the speed of their production lines.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is looking to put an end to this program, saying that the practice isn’t safe for workers. In response, he has introduced the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act, legislation he says will better protect workers, consumers, and animal safety. The bill looks to suspend all current and future USDA waivers and regulations that allow companies to increase production line speeds at meatpacking plants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If passed, the act would not only suspend the waivers related to line speeds, but would also suspend implementation of the NSIS. Additionally, it would stop USDA from using federal funds to develop or finalize any “policy, regulation, directive, constituent update, or any other agency program” that would increase line speeds at meat and poultry plants.
Reps. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives as a companion bill.
Emily Madsullo says
Worker safety is very, very important. Ensuring adequate inspection is very, very important for the public.
If the lines are run too fast to allow for adequate inspection then more diseased meat and poultry will make it into our meat distribution.
I read another article on increasing poultry lines where the head of the poultry association said their rate of 140 birds per minute has been in place now for over 20 years. That is not true. Twenty years ago the rate had been increased to 80 birds per minute and USDA inspectors at my small were shocked that the USDA could believe that adequate inspection could occur the rate if 80 per minute. I’m glad that the 140 birds per minute rate has (for now) been suspended.
Kudos to Senator Booker, Rep. Fudge, DeLauro and Thompson introducing legislation to better protect meat processing line workers and the general public’s health.