In a letter addressed to key U.S. congressional leaders, the Safe Food Coalition (SFC), comprising a variety of food industry stakeholder groups and consumer protection organizations, expressed its opposition to pending federal legislation that would lift prohibitions on the interstate sale of meat and poultry from state-inspected facilities and allow commercial sales from uninspected “custom” slaughter facilities.

Specifically, SFC criticizes the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions Act of 2023 (the DIRECT Act), the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act (the PRIME Act), and the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act of 2023 (New Markets Act). The letter is addressed to House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The letter calls the three pieces of legislation “efforts that would compromise established food safety standards for consumers in exchange for speculative, thinly supported benefits,” and recommends that Congress explore more meaningful interventions to support smaller meat and poultry processors, such as reforms to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) overtime inspection fees, which disproportionately affect smaller firms. If passed:

  • The DIRECT Act (H.R. 2817) would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. 661, and the Poultry Products Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. 454, to allow establishments and retailers to “sell over the internet and ship by carrier in commerce” state-inspected meat and poultry, so long as the product “is shipped directly to household consumers and in normal retail quantities”
  • The New Markets Act (S. 846) would allow state-inspected meat and poultry processors to sell across state lines by whatever means they prefer
  • The PRIME Act would allow meat and poultry from an uninspected “custom slaughter facility” to be sold to consumers at restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, grocery stores, or other establishments located within the state’s borders.

SFC believes that the DIRECT Act and the New Markets Act “present a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s food safety system, potentially allowing consumers to buy state-inspected meat and poultry on sites like, without even knowing it.” Regarding the PRIME Act, the group underlines that there is no size limitation on the facilities that can take advantage of the exemption, nor any prescriptions for states on how they should regulate “custom” establishments before their products are released to market.

In the letter, SFC suggests that, before moving to deregulate sales of state-inspected meat processors, Congress should examine whether such legislation would create unfair competition for small and very small processors who have invested in meeting federal inspection requirements. Additionally, SFC recommends that Congress examine whether reforming laws that disproportionately burden smaller processors with user fee payments would better promote the stated objectives of recent deregulation proposals. The group believes that efforts to further expand interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry products are most appropriately channeled towards improving the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program.

The letter was signed by Barbara Kowalcyk, Ph.D., Faculty at George Washington University; the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Food and Water Watch, the National Consumers League, and Stop Foodborne Illness.