Dirty Birds: Fighting Foul Fowl with Food and Water Watch

Staci Strauss

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Don’t you just love articles that begin with a warning? Brace yourself, you will be grossed out!

I’m glad I finished my breakfast (a hard-boiled egg) before reading this one. In a nutshell, our friends at Food & Water Watch are fighting the good fight against a pilot plan the USDA has announced to privatize poultry inspection. Incredible, but true! If you agree that oversight should come from the outside, join me in speaking out against this attempt at government deregulation. Anna Ghosh, the Western Region Communications Director for Food & Water Watch writes:

Warning: do not read this while eating a chicken sandwich. Discussing the privatization of poultry inspection is gross, but letting the USDA get away with it is even more disgusting, not to mention makes our food less safe and puts workers in danger. 

Tell Secretary Vilsack not to privatize poultry inspection!

According to the National Chicken Council, “Americans buy more chicken than any other food at the center of the plate.” It’s safe to assume that Americans would like that chicken to be healthy, wholesome and free of fecal matter, bile, scabs, bruises and other unappetizing contamination. But the USDA isn’t concerned about these things. They call them “quality defects” and would rather leave it up the company employees to deal with; compensating for less inspection with more anti-microbial chemicals. But as the Washington Post uncovered, this is a deadly solution.

Since 2011, Food & Water Watch and its allies have been fighting plans to privatize poultry inspection as a matter of consumer and worker safety. In March of 2012, Food & Water Watch analyzed the USDA’s HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), the pilot that the current privatization scheme is based on, and found that large numbers of defects are routinely missed when company employees instead of USDA inspectors perform inspection tasks. In April of 2012, inspectors and more than 150,000 consumer spoke out about HIMP, prompting investigative stories from ABC News and the New York Times. We’ve also spent some time fact checking USDA officials, and former officials as Food & Water Watch Senior Lobbyist Tony Corbo did today in Food Safety News:

Talk about the foxes watching the henhouse! Foul fowl? No, thanks, I’ll stick to buying my chickens from growers I know and trust not to substitute quality control with a chemical bath. Yuck! It would be different if we could trust the poultry industry to put people and poultry over profit, but sadly, the opposite seems to be true.

Ms. Ghosh continues:

As Mother Jones Food Blogger Tom Philpott points out, while the Obama administration boasts about the minor government savings and major savings for big poultry companies, the USDA’s claims of food safety are shaky and concern for worker safety nonexistent. No matter how many chemical dunks are used, privatized poultry inspection will lead to unsafe food and unsafe working conditions. Period. Let Secretary Vilsack know how you feel about foul privatized foul here.

Click here to read the rest of the article over at Food&WaterWatch.org

This article originally appeared on Food&WaterWatch.org. It is partially posted here with permission from the author.

Will you join HandPicked Nation and Food & Water Watch by contacting Secretary Vilsack to voice your opposition to this privatization scheme?

Photo credit: Craig McCord