Food & Water Watch (FWW) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture on Thursday that would stop the implementation of the agency’s New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). The new poultry inspection rule, announced July 31, requires additional microbiological testing at all poultry processing facilities and introduces a fifth inspection system available for U.S. plants to voluntarily adopt. NPIS is based on the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) and directs poultry companies to sort their own product for quality defects before presenting it to an FSIS inspector. The consumer group is concerned that the system allows companies to privatize poultry inspection. According to USDA, the goal of NPIS is to free up inspectors from each line to be able to ensure that sampling and testing are done properly and sanitation requirements are met, and to verify compliance with food safety rules. Wenonah Hauter, FWW executive director, said that the system “flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers,” and the the complaint states that it will deny consumers “the right to know which products that have an official inspection legend and establishment number are actually federally inspected.” FWW believes that NPIS violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) requirement that federal government inspectors, and not poultry slaughter establishment staff, are responsible for condemning adulterated young chicken and turkey carcasses. The organization is also concerned that allowing line speeds to increase to 140 young chickens per minute for NPIS establishments means that carcasses can pass by one federal inspector much faster than under the Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), which limits each inspector to 35 carcasses per minute, and the New Line Speed Inspection System (NELS), which limits them to 30. Further, the complaint states that the “proposed NPIS rules were not similar to the final rules in a number of ways,” that there was “inadequate risk analysis and response to comments,” and that there was no opportunity for the organization to orally present its views about the rules at a public meeting. “USDA’s new system will harm consumers and reverse 100 years of effective government regulation of the meat industry,” Hauter said. “It’s essentially a return to Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle.’ It’s a huge step backwards for our food safety system.” On Oct. 3, the Government Accountability Project, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Foodborne Illness, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Nebraska Appleseed filed a joint amicus curiae brief in support of FWW.