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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand urges regulatory czar to ‘revisit’ proposed Poultry Rule

In the wake of a government audit released last week finding that the USDA’s data supporting its proposed Poultry Rule was “incomplete and antiquated,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today called for the standard to be “revisited.”

First, she introduced a bill that would protect the health of workers and consumers alike.  The Safe Meat and Poultry Act would keep existing inspection line speeds intact, as well as close loopholes in the USDA’s meat and poultry inspection program that have been putting public health at risk.

More specifically, the bill would:

  • Create mandatory pathogen reduction performance standards and expand the authority of the USDA to regulate new pathogens, which will make progress towards targeting and reducing dangerous pathogens in the meat and poultry supply.
  • Improve consumer notification for recalls of contaminated products.
  • Provide whistleblower protection for government and private workers in the food industry to report public health issues and support a more resilient agriculture industry.
  • Provide better enforcement penalties, including criminal penalties for intentionally putting unsafe products in the marketplace, and escalating enforcement action for the few bad actors that have a repeated history of serious failures to ensure food safety.
  • Safeguard our borders from unsafe or adulterated foreign meat and poultry products by ensuring regular international audits by the Food Safety & Inspection Service.
  • Increase the emphasis on prevention throughout the entire food safety system, including for pathogens, chemical residues, and potential contamination.
  • Improve consideration given to occupational health & safety to support a safe and sustainable environment in which wholesome products can be produced, inspected, and passed.

Sen. Gillibrand also sent a letter last week to Howard Shelanksi, Obama’s new regulatory czar, urging him to require the USDA to revisit the proposed Poultry Rule and delay the rulemaking process.

National COSH is pleased that workers’ safety is on Sen. Gillibrand’s radar as she highlights the flaws of the proposed Poultry Rule (though, admittedly, we wish it played a more central role in her argument to withdraw the proposal).

We applaud Sen. Gillibrand for taking the initiative to commission repeated government audits to hold the USDA accountable for its role in protecting public- and workers’ – health.

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