US – The US government has withdrawn a proposed rule that would have allowed poultry plants to increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute from 140 birds per minute.
The rule to increase poultry line speeds had been proposed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service during the Trump Administration.
At the time, temporary waivers were approved for more than 50 poultry plants to increase slaughter speeds, including 15 during the pandemic.
Facilities that received the waiver were found to be 10 times more likely to have coronavirus cases than poultry plants without the line-speed waivers, according to an analysis of data collected by the nonprofit Food & Environment Reporting Network.
The withdrawn rule would have made the increases permanent and allowed other plants to adopt the 175-birds-per-minute line speed without the need to apply for a waiver.
The US government, under a new administration has however has wasted little time to review faster line speeds in the poultry line which was seen by opponents as serving to boost corporate profits while putting workers at risk.
In a statement, the USDA said, “The line speed rule is one of several rules and regulations that fall under the regulatory freeze memo issued last week by the White House.”
“The memo requests all federal agencies ‘withdraw any rules that were submitted to [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs] prior to January 20, 2021.”
The withdrawal of the rule has been widely applauded by consumer advocacy groups including Food & Water Watch and the Humane Society of the United States.
“Allowing this rule would have demonstrated a staggering lack of judgment and recklessness under the circumstances,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with the Biden Administration to make sure additional steps are taken to slow down line speeds across the industry to protect animal welfare and worker safety.”
In the past, the industry has objected to the argument that faster speeds increase the risk of injury for workers.
Ashley Peterson, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council, said in a statement that while the poultry industry has been increasing line speeds during the past 25 years, the industry’s injury and illness rate has fallen 86% to an all-time low, according to data from the Labor Department.
“It would be unfortunate for the new administration to ignore three decades of science, data, and court decisions, in a move that would hamstring the U.S. poultry industry on a global scale,” Paterson added.
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