USDA overhauls decades-old poultry inspections

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WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 ensuring plants are clean.

The changes would be voluntary, but many of the country's largest poultry companies are expected to opt in.

USDA originally proposed the rule in January 2012. Consumer groups criticized that proposal, saying it would shift too much of the inspection burden to industry.

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