HOUSE Agriculture Committee leaders sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Nov. 15 asking about the future of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule.
"We know that USDA is very supportive of the proposed rule and are inquiring as to when you plan to move this rule forward," Reps. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.), Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) and Jim Costa (D., Cal.) wrote.
In an email to USDA, Cathy Cochran, public affairs specialist at the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS), explained that "FSIS cannot predict a timeline" for when the proposed rule may go to the Office of Management & Budget for review or a potential timeline for implementation.
Currently, the rule is still within departmental review, Cochran told Feedstuffs.
The rule was first proposed in January 2012 but has come under attack from some because of fears that it would decrease food safety oversight.
"USDA put this proposal forward because our data show that it would prevent at least 5,000 illnesses due to salmonella and campylobacter annually, and we hope that it will move forward soon," she noted.
The senators' letter touted a pilot program that was tested in 25 plants for more than 14 years and showed that the plants performed as well as traditional plants on performance standards.
The letter added that FSIS projects that almost $80 million in health care costs would be saved on an annual basis due to prevented foodborne illnesses.
"Furthermore, based on FSIS projections of its budget cost-savings analysis, the expected reduction in government spending would be approximately $14.6 million in the first year and would average about $39.6 million in subsequent years," the letter noted.