House Agriculture leaders sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Nov. 15 asking about the future of the proposed rule, Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection.
"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., Calif.) wrote.
In an email to USDA, Cathy Cochran, public affairs specialist at the Food Safety Inspection Service, explained that "FSIS cannot predict a timeline" for when the proposed rule may go to the Office of Management and Budget for review or a potential timeline for implementation.
Currently the rule is still within departmental review, she told Feedstuffs.
The rule was first proposed in January 2012 but has come under attack from some because of fears it would decrease food safety oversight.
"USDA put this proposal forward because our data shows 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. A pilot program which was run in 25 plants for over 14 years showed that they performed as well as better as traditional plants on performance standards the Congressional letter touted.
The letter added that FSIS projects that almost $80 million in health care costs would be saved on an annual basis off these 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."