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USDA overhauls 50 year-old poultry inspections to improve food safety, increase efficiency

  • 8d6a595815097410VgnVCM100000d7c1a8c0____-USDA Chicken Inspectors-1.jpg

    FILE - This Aug. 24, 2010 file photo shows chickens in Sparks, Md. The Obama administration is overhauling poultry plant inspections for the first time in more than 50 years, a move it says could result in 5,000 fewer foodborne illnesses each year. The final rules announced Thursday would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors by around a fourth. But those that remain will focus more on food safety than quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. There would also be more inspectors checking the facilities to make sure they are clean. (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File) (The Associated Press)

  • 8d6a595815097410VgnVCM100000d7c1a8c0____-USDA Chicken Inspectors-2.jpg

    FILE - This Oct. 10, 2013 file photo shows a truck entering the Foster Farms processing plant in Livingston, Calif. The Obama administration is overhauling poultry plant inspections for the first time in more than 50 years, a move it says could result in 5,000 fewer foodborne illnesses each year. The final rules announced Thursday would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors by around a fourth. But those that remain will focus more on food safety than quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. There would also be more inspectors checking the facilities to make sure they are clean. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) (The Associated Press)

The Obama administration is attempting to cut down on thousands of foodborne illnesses linked to chicken and turkey each year with an overhaul of poultry plant inspection rules that are more than 50 years old.

Final rules announced Thursday would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors. Those who remain will focus more on food safety than on quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. More inspectors would check facilities to make sure they are clean.

The Agriculture Department says the move could cut down on 5,000 foodborne illnesses annually. The changes would be voluntary, but many of the country's largest poultry companies are expected to opt in. The chicken and turkey industries swiftly praised the new rules.