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This Thanksgiving, give thanks for safe turkeys

This year, as you and your family gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks for your turkey — free from scabs, salmonella, and other dangerous flaws. You see, by next year, you may not be so lucky.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a new rule that would allow poultry processors to increase line speeds for poultry inspection lines more than five times. Poultry plant workers would need to inspect a bird every one-third of a second under this proposed rule.

Not only does this threaten food safety, it puts workers’ safety on the line. Already, 59 percent of poultry workers develop carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries. Increasing the line speed to 175 birds a minute will undoubtedly take a toll on the workers.

National COSH joined other organizations this fall in  urging the USDA to withdraw the proposal. Now it’s time to make your voices heard. The USDA’s proposal is not yet finalized.

Phyllis McKelvey, a retired chicken inspector and grandmother of eight from Guntersville, Ala., is petitioning the USDA on  to stop expansion of a new pilot program she says is already letting bile, feces, pus, and scabs into the nation’s poultry products. (Add your signature now!)

McKelvey, who worked in the poultry industry for 44 years, with over a decade spent working as a USDA inspector, launched an online petition  on  to rally support from consumers concerned about the USDA plan, commonly known as HIMP, which increases line speeds while decreasing the number of inspectors tasked with protecting the nation’s food supply.

“I have seen contaminated chickens go down the line, but inspectors like me were able to stop them before they reached consumers,” said McKelvey. “But under the USDA’s new plan, I” m afraid that birds covered in bile, feces, and pus will become chicken nuggets and be served to young children. More than 170,000 people signed my petition  so far, and I” m sure support will keep growing- because no one wants to eat chicken covered in glops of feces.”

“If you knew an inspector had just one-third of a second to inspect a chicken for a whole host of problems, would you eat it?” McKelvey added.

Bon appetit!