Obama Budget Plans on Replacing USDA Poultry Inspectors with Industry Self Regulation

  April 10, 2013

Obama Budget Plans on Replacing USDA Poultry Inspectors with Industry Self Regulation

Tony Corbo: Plan will put our food supply at risk in a move that will increase profits of poultry producers and save only 90 million dollars over three years
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

The reason I continue to support TRNN is, not only is it real, it is also the most truthful. - Dick S
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Tony Corbo is the senior lobbyist for the food campaign at Food & Water Watch. He is responsible for food-related legislative and regulatory issues that come before Congress and the Executive Branch.


Obama Budget Plans on Replacing USDA Poultry Inspectors with Industry Self RegulationPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

In President Obama's budget presented on Wednesday, one of the provisions calls for cutting back on food inspection, particularly of poultry, cutting back federal inspectors.

Now joining us to talk about why this matters is Tony Corbo. He's a senior lobbyist for the food campaign at Food and Water Watch. He's responsible for food-related legislative regulatory issues that come before Congress and the executive branch.

Thanks for joining us, Tony.


JAY: So if I understand it correctly, the plan is--and the budget reflects this plan--to cut back on U.S. meat and poultry inspectors and let the industry essentially inspect itself. So what's wrong with that?

CORBO: What's wrong with that is that having USDA inspectors in these plants provides an unbiased view of what is going on in those plants from a food safety standpoint, from a sanitation standpoint. And so what the administration is proposing is to turn over a major proportion of the inspection duties over to the companies, where the company employees will be doing the jobs of the USDA inspectors. There'll be a token USDA inspection force left in these plants.

JAY: So what evidence is the government going on, is President Obama's administration going on that this is okay? There have been some pilot programs on this. What have they shown?

CORBO: Well, the pilot programs have been running since the late 1990s. And what the pilots have shown is that in a lot of these plants--and there are 20 plants, 20 chicken plants where they've used this new inspection model where they turned over the inspection responsibilities over to the companies--and they've also increased the line speedsn in these facilities--that the company-paid inspectors really do not catch a lot of the quality defects that USDA alleges that the companies can do better than a USDA inspector. And the other thing is that the plants do not have lower salmonella rates than those plants that receive conventional inspection.

What brought this whole regulation about, this proposed regulation, is the fact that Obama two years ago issued an executive order asking the federal government agencies to look at regulations that could be eliminated and to have industry weigh in as to which regulations they consider to be onerous or redundant. And, of course, the poultry industry stepped up to the plate and said, we want fewer inspectors in these plants.

JAY: Now, but you just said that the self-inspected plants do not have lower rates of salmonella. But isn't the point do they have higher rates?

CORBO: They do. I mean, when the administration proposed their regulation, they had a report doing an evaluation of these pilot plants. And it showed the last two years of data that they collected, that the pilot plants had actually higher salmonella rates than the conventionally inspected plants. And lo and behold, just this past month--USDA does a monthly report on the testing that the government does in these plants to test to see if the salmonella rates are either high or low, and two of the pilot plants showed up as failing the salmonella test.

So here's the ultimate irony. The administration keeps on going around and saying that this new model, this new inspection model is going to be able to reduce salmonella, and yet all of the evidence points the other way.

JAY: Now, if I understand it correctly--and to be transparent about this, I'm getting this from your press release--this is all--we have not had a chance to research this ourselves very far. But according to your press release, they're only--the federal government's only going to save about $90 million over three years with this self-inspection. I mean, that seems a complete pittance given the size of the budget. Yet this in theory could give rise to some danger. What is the logic here?

CORBO: Well, I mean, that's one of the questions that we've raised all along, that, you know, when you're talking about a $1 trillion deficit and you're talking about saving $90 million over three years, you know, why go through all of this? And it just seems that what the administration, especially the White House--and there's been--and the office of management and budget is the one that's been driving this deregulatory move by the administration--is that the industry, by being able to increase production to 175 birds per minute, will stand to gain $260 million a year, adding to their bottom line, because they'll be able to increase production and have fewer regulations to deal with.

JAY: But why can't they increase the lines and still have federal inspectors?

CORBO: Well, because the argument is that you can't visually catch all of this stuff. Right now, the way the line speeds are regulated at USDA, each USDA inspector can only look at up to 35 birds per minute. And so if you're going to eliminate that particular regulation--they will have a token--they will have one inspector. They will have one inspector remaining at the end of the line under this new model they're talking about.

But that one inspector will have to look at 175 birds a minute. That means every third of a second, a chicken will be buzzing by. You're not going to catch anything. I don't care how good you are as an inspector, whether you're a USDA inspector or a company inspector. You're not going to see anything.

JAY: So I don't understand. Why don't they charge--if they're going to pay their own inspectors, why don't--and they want to save money, why don't they make the poultry companies pay for the federal inspectors, that at least there'd be independent inspectors?

CORBO: Right. But the problem is is that in other places where that's been done, you compromise the work of the government inspector, because the companies will constantly remind you that you're being paid by them. And so you want to have a--this is a public health program. It's--to have USDA inspectors in these plants is to protect the public's health. And it should be funded through regular tax dollars, rather than having the industry pay for it.

JAY: Now, I don't understand. From the point of view of the industry, doesn't it make them more liable? I mean, if there is salmonella and they get sued, at least now they can blame it on the federal inspectors to some extent. Now if there's a problem, they're going to have to take the whole blame.

CORBO: Except for the fact that right now the government does not have the legal authority to regulate salmonella in these plants. The best they can do is to publish on a monthly basis the plants that have failed. Essentially it's a report card. You know, the government has these standards. If the companies fail the standards, all they get is this little slap on the wrist. They get their names published, you know, on a monthly report card. The USDA cannot shut these plants down. They don't have the legal authority. They've lost court cases in the past trying to regulate salmonella.

And that's our argument. If you really want to regulate food-borne pathogens in these plants, then go to Congress and have those court decisions overturned, have the Congress give you the legal authority to shut down a plant that has high rates of salmonella that could cause food-borne illness, that could sicken, you know, thousands of people. That's our argument here.

JAY: It boggles the mind. I would think most people think that's actually what's happening, that there is that kind of regulation.

CORBO: It does. I mean, the thing is that the USDA has the legal authority to shut down a plant for e. coli and hamburger meat, but it does not have the legal authority to shut down a chicken plant for having salmonella. Actually, you can't even do that--we cannot shut down a beef plant that has high rates of salmonella. Salmonella, for some reason the courts have ruled that USDA does not have the authority to shut a place down for having high levels of salmonella.

JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Tony.

CORBO: Alright. Thank you.

JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

latest stories

President Maduro Calls on the Pope to Help Resolve Conflict with Opposition
Broken Treaties Central to the Injustice of the Dakota Access Pipeline
The Industrial Agricultural System is Limiting Food Access and Driving Climate Change
TRNN REPLAY: The Real News Town Hall: Should the Community Control the Police? Pt.1
Breaking Through Power: Wendy Fields on Movement Building
How Washington's Money-Machine Stays Ahead of Democracy
Tribes Reclaim Unceded Territories to Block Dakota Access Pipeline
Obama Holding Further Military Involvement in Syria, But Will the Next President?
TRIPS: The Story of How Intellectual Property Became Linked to Trade (2/7)
A Just Transition for Fossil Fuels Workers is Possible
Breaking Through Power: Jordan Estevao on Training for Change
The Right to Housing in Baltimore - TRNN Grand Opening
Tom Hayden on the Obama-Biden Ticket
Clinton's Strategy: Make Obama Unelectable
Prospect of US Arms Shipments to Ukraine After Elections Prompts Restarting of Peace Negotiations
TRIPS: The Story of How Intellectual Property Became Linked to Trade (1/7)
Why is the State of Maryland Defending Racist Practices of the Pocomoke police?
Elites Outraged At Trump's Refusal to Accept Election Result
Two More Land Rights Activists Assassinated in Honduras
Final Presidential Debate Accentuates Candidates' Divide on Abortion Rights
Clinton Reaffirms Commitment to No-Fly Zone in Syria
A Bloodier Battle for Mosul Might Begin After the Ouster of ISIS
Covering the Epidemic of Violence in Baltimore - TRNN Grand Opening
Justice Department Sues Pocomoke For Violating Rights of Fired Black Police Chief
Officers Withdrawn from North Dakota Following Arrest of Madison Elected Official
Fair Elections Under Attack, Just Not in the Way Donald Trump Wants You to Believe
TiSA Agreement Leaks Show Corporations Pushing Privatization of Public Services
Exxon Fighting to Shut Down Investigations Into Company's Foreknowledge of Climate Change
Opposition Calls for a General Strike As Congolese President Wins Election Delay
The Path to Actual Police Reform Starts with Real Civilian Oversight

TheRealNewsNetwork.com, RealNewsNetwork.com, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting