"Plan to Let Poultry Plants Inspect Birds Is Criticized"

"WASHINGTON — Federal food safety inspectors said a proposal by the Agriculture Department to expand a pilot program that allows private companies to take over the inspections at poultry plants could pose a health risk by allowing contaminated meat to reach customers.""Currently, the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors are stationed along the assembly lines in poultry plants and examine the birds for blemishes, feces or visible defects before they are processed."

"Under the planned expansion, the agency would hand over these duties to poultry plant employees, while the inspectors would spend more time evaluating the plant’s bacteria-testing and other safety programs. The department has run the pilot program in 20 poultry plants since 1998.

But many of the agency’s inspectors said the proposal puts consumers at risk for diseases like those caused by salmonella. About 1.2 million cases of food poisoning are caused by salmonella each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Ron Nixon reports for the New York Times April 4, 2012.

Source: NY Times, 04/06/2012