A week before many American families eat their turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, retired poultry inspector Phyllis McKelvey made a trip to the nation's capital to raise the alarm about a pending threat to chicken and turkey safety.
On Wednesday morning at the USDA Headquarters, Phyllis delivered more than 177,000 petition signatures and about 13,000 comments opposing USDA's proposed inspection rule that would threaten proper oversight of chicken and turkey processing. Not only would it hand government oversight duties to the poultry companies themselves, but the rule would also increase line speeds so that inspectors only have 1/3 of a second to look at each bird for problems.
Phyllis and her husband, Richard, drove up to Washington D.C. from their home in Albertville, Alabama to deliver the petition and speak with the media in person. A television crew from the local CBS affiliate WUSA-TV showed up during the petition drop-off at the USDA Headquarters. The reporter was surprised to hear from Phyllis that the plan would prevent USDA inspectors from looking at the backside or inside of a carcass, where potential contamination and other signs of disease are often found. (For more on these grave concerns regarding the poultry rule, read FIC's in-depth profile on Phyllis.)
Watch the CBS coverage of her petition below:
People who eat both chicken and turkey should know what's happening behind the scenes at the plants where their food is processed. The USDA officials backing this rule claim that the scabs, bile and other signs of disease that inspectors will likely miss under the proposed system are just "cosmetic" issues. But as Phyllis said, "they are more than cosmetic" and even after retiring, she feels it's her duty to protect the poultry-consuming American public. After delivering her petition, Phyllis will also be speaking with representatives on Capitol Hill this week about her concerns.
Read FIC's blog about how Phyllis compares to other concerned USDA inspectors who haven't been able to blow the whistle publicly on the agency's flawed plan here.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.