U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington, D.C.  recently dismissed a lawsuit from Food & Water Watch ruling that the consumer group did not have the legal standing to challenge the New Poultry Inspection Rules (NPIS) issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  Food and Water Watch has now filed a notice of intent to challenge the Judge’s recent ruling before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

USDA enacted new rules that reduced the number of inspectors monitoring poultry carcasses for adulteration, instead allowing poultry processing employees to perform those duties.  USDA said the traditional focus on visually detectable diseases during post-processing inspection was outdated and it was more important to devote personnel to prevent microbial contamination of poultry.  Food & Water Watch had sought a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of NPIS, arguing that the new system violated the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

If Food & Water Watch were allowed to proceed with the lawsuit, they would have to suffer an injury from the agency’s action, but Judge Jackson concluded that Food & Water Watch failed to show that the rules would significantly increase the risk of disease.  As evidence, Food & Water Watch provided statements by current and former meat inspectors who claimed the rules would allow more adulterated meat to enter commerce.  However, Judge Jackson discounted those arguments saying such assertions were “unsupported and overblown” because they were based on anecdotes that USDA rebutted with data from pilot programs.

The judge also threw out the group’s arguments that processing plants involved in the pilot projects had higher rates of pathogens.  “This narrow focus on certain agency findings is an exceedingly myopic view” of the USDA’s data and overlooks the “larger and far more significant conclusion” that the agency expects an “overall reduction in foodborne illness under NPIS.”