The U.S. Department of Agriculture is strengthening its poultry inspection system, requiring government inspectors at plants to check an additional 20 birds per eight-hour shift for signs of fecal contamination. The rule makes final a 1994 proposal that got sidelined as the USDA continued to look for ways to improve meat and poultry inspections, a process that culminated in an overhaul of the system announced last summer. New regulations replacing the "sniff-and-poke" system in place since the turn of the century are just beginning to be phased in. The new rule is separate from that broader overhaul. While 20 birds in eight hours is a "fairly minimal" sampling, she said, it will help the government keep tabs on how well companies are doing in implementing their safety systems, the USDA said.