Recent changes to regulations affecting line speed in meat plants have raised concerns about meat safety. These changes potentially add new dangers for food producers who are purchasing the meat, since many believe it will dramatically raise the risk of contaminated food entering our supply chain. Under these new regulations, plant managers will have more control over inspections, and many federal inspectors will be replaced with plant employees.
Last September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a notice that it would allow certain poultry producers to increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute, up from the current line speed that capped at 140 birds per minute. To do so, plant operators must meet certain criteria, such as a history of regulatory compliance, being able to prove that they had the proper equipment, procedures and technologies in place that would allow for faster line speeds without compromising safety and being able to provide documentation that the increased line speed would not affect employee safety or interfere with inspection procedures.
The move to increase the line speed was controversial, especially given that the poultry industry has a high rate of workplace injury — even higher than construction, landscaping and sawmill worksites. Opponents of the measure to increase line speed have voiced concern that it could expose workers to even more injuries and illness.