USDA allows higher line speeds at six pork plants for at least 90 days

Following the recommendation of a team of experts, the Agriculture Department said on Tuesday it would allow six pork processing plants to operate high-speed slaughter lines for an additional 90 days in an experiment that began two years ago. The test was intended to generate information on the impact of higher line speeds on worker safety, but the team of experts said there was not enough data yet.

‘Significant progress’ in Covid-19 vaccinations at USDA

USDA "critical services" will not be disrupted by the Biden administration mandate for federal workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, said the department on Monday as the deadline passed for inoculations. Farm and livestock groups said earlier this month the mandate might leave the USDA short of meat inspectors or staff at its local offices.

Biden taps long-time USDA scientist to oversee food safety

Jose Esteban, the chief scientist at USDA's meat inspection agency, is President Biden's choice to become agriculture undersecretary for food safety, announced the White House. If confirmed by the Senate, Esteban would be the USDA leader on issues ranging from prevention of food-borne illness to regulation of cell-cultured meat, now approaching commercialization.

USDA may enlist farmers in its efforts to reduce salmonella in poultry

The USDA's food safety agency is considering new approaches to reduce salmonella bacteria in poultry that could include "pre-harvest interventions" on the farm, said Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Saundra Eskin on Tuesday. "We know that most salmonella contamination enters the facility with the birds and the more we can do to reduce contamination at the point of slaughter, the less contamination and cross-contamination we have in an establishment."

At poultry plants allowed to run faster processing lines, a greater risk of Covid-19

Forty percent of the poultry plants participating in the USDA's controversial line speed waiver program have had Covid-19 outbreaks, according to an analysis of FERN’s outbreaks database. Labor advocates have warned that faster speeds on crowded processing lines could expose slaughterhouse workers to a greater risk of Covid-19, and even the top federal workplace authority has suggested that meatpackers reduce line speeds to curb the spread of the virus.(No paywall)

Deputy moves to top job at U.S. meat safety agency

Paul Kiecker went to work as a USDA food inspector in 1988 and three decades later is the new leader of the Food Safety Inspection Service. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the appointment of Keicker as FSIS administrator on Tuesday, succeeding Carmen Rottenberg, who is leaving …

House passes spending bill, including amendment to delay hog slaughter rule

The House passed a $383 billion spending package Tuesday, including an amendment that would delay a USDA proposed rule to shift more of the responsibility for hog inspections to companies. Under the amendment, which is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. DeLauro of Connecticut and Price of …

USDA bans slaughter of ‘downer’ calves

More than a decade after it banned slaughter of "downer" cattle to provide meat for human consumption, USDA said it will ban slaughter of veal calves that are unable to stand or walk when they arrive at packing plants. The Food Safety and Inspection Service said the ban, to take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, will mean that the calves receive better treatment.

Farm, consumer groups ask USDA to reinstate ‘grass-fed beef’ label

Two months after USDA terminated a voluntary program for labeling grass-fed beef, nine farm and consumer groups asked the department to spell out the conditions for using the term.