USDA Poised to OK Chicken-Plant Speedups Increasing Risky Chemicals

The Agriculture Department is poised to approve an increase in line speeds at poultry processing plants. That is likely to mean increased use of toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals which have harmed some workers.

"When Jose Navarro landed a job as a federal poultry inspector in 2006, he moved his wife and newborn son to a rural town in Upstate New York near the processing plant, believing it was a steppingstone to a better life.

Five years later, Navarro was dead. The 37-year-old’s lungs had bled out.

His death triggered a federal investigation that raised questions about the health risks associated with a rise in the use of toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals in poultry plants. Agriculture Department health inspectors say processing plants are turning to the chemicals to remove contaminants that escape notice as processing line speeds have accelerated, in part to meet growing consumer demand for chicken and turkey.

The department is now poised to allow a further increase in line speeds, boosting the maximum by about 25 percent. This change is part of new regulations that officials say would make poultry production more efficient and reduce the number of government inspectors while increasing the number of private company inspectors."

Kimberly Kindy reports for the Washington Post April 25, 2013.

Source: Wash Post, 04/26/2013