The proposed system does not give “plant workers the responsibility for identifying and removing live diseased hogs.” This function is one well-trained plant employees have handled very effectively for years. Regardless, the USDA retains ultimate authority.
To say there are “no plans under the new system to test for salmonella” is puzzling. The USDA stopped testing for salmonella on pork carcasses years ago because the agency was not finding value in it. The USDA continues to pay close attention to salmonella in the pork processing chain.
The proposed rule would change nothing regarding disclosing pathogen testing results. Stating that plants “will no longer be required to test for E. coli” ignored the fact that they still must test for indicator organisms. Years of generic E. coli testing tell us it is not the best way to evaluate food-safety systems.
U.S. pork processors have an excellent food-safety track record. They have absolutely no interest in shortcutting food safety. It’s unfair to suggest otherwise.
After years of lobbying, meat industry executives are getting their huge payday under the Trump administration, with new rules expected any day now that would deregulate hog inspections and lift current limits on slaughter-line speeds. The New Swine Inspection System is modeled after the same deregulatory scheme implemented at poultry plants that replaces government inspectors with company employees and has resulted in less safe food.
Our analysis of hog plants piloting this system showed that, over a five-year period, there were 32 instances — all occurring in these pilot plants — in which an Agriculture Department online inspector discovered that a plant employee had failed to identify a carcass so infected that consumption of the meat could cause food poisoning.
With less oversight and faster slaughter-line speeds, we can expect more food recalls and food-borne illness, more meat plant injuries and more animal welfare concerns. The USDA is paving the way for profits at the expense of our public health.
The writer is senior lobbyist for Food & Water Watch.