USDA this week announced it has sunsetted existing line speed waivers for chicken processing establishments and has granted “modified line speed waivers” for one-year, expiring on March 31, 2024. During that time, USDA said that a third-party plans to complete data analysis of its worker safety study and submit its final report to the Department.

In January 2022, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia granted USDA’s motion for voluntary remand in a case challenging the issuance of line speed waivers to certain establishments participating in the New Poultry Inspection System. The remand directed USDA to reconsider the poultry line speed waiver program based on the time-limited trials it implemented for certain swine establishments participating in the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System.

In July 2022, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced it was contracting with a team of third-party academics to conduct a study with select poultry establishments to consider the impact of increased line speeds on worker safety. Poultry establishments with existing line speed waivers that opted into the study and agreed to provide worker safety information were eligible to apply for a modified line speed waiver as part of the study.

Some of these establishments that had line speed waivers and agreed to the study were first granted waivers in a pilot program in the Clinton administration, while others had received waivers after submitting rigorous worker and food safety data during subsequent administrations.

FSIS has completed its evaluation of the submissions from eligible poultry establishments and issued letters granting modified line speed waivers. The full list of modified waivers granted can be found here. FSIS also announced it is sunsetting the existing young chicken line speed waiver program at the onset of the modified waiver program.