The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to reduce the number of federal inspectors in chicken processing plants.
The USDA plan would eliminate as many as 800 inspector positions. Visual inspection of the chickens would fall to plant workers. Federal inspectors would focus on areas of the plant where bacteria could grow.
Watchdog group the Government Accountability Project released affidavits from federal poultry inspectors who said plant workers were told productivity is their main responsibility, rather than ensuring food safety.
But Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, said bacteria are the main cause of food contamination.
“Inspecting the process that is designed to reduce contamination is going to be more beneficial than for inspectors to look at the blemishes, which aren’t indicative of the harmful bacteria that could be present,” said Doyle.
The Georgia Poultry Federation supports the plan saying it will not let companies off the hook for food safety.