Quantcast

USDA Proposes Significant Cuts in Pork Processing Regulation

Food
USDA / Flickr

By Dan Nosowitz

Food safety concerns have been ratcheting up lately: major outbreaks of salmonella, listeria and other food-borne bacteria seem to be on the rise. Given that, you might expect any changes in federal oversight to work toward fixing that. Not so fast!


On Jan. 19, the USDA announced a proposal to "modernize swine inspection." There are a few different elements to this "modernization," many of which seem designed to maximize profit and efficiency for pork producers.

One part of the proposal wants to remove limits on line speed—the number of animals that can move through the slaughterhouse in an hour—calling this an "unnecessary regulatory obstacle to innovation." That could mean an increase in the number of hogs processed by 30 percent, according to Organic Authority. Those limits are for safety reasons; capping this removes the temptation for processors to race through hogs as quickly as possible, which could result in sloppy work.

Another major element would be a new, voluntary inspection program, called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System. If a plant chooses to opt-into NSIS, as the USDA insists on abbreviating it (shouldn't it be NSSIS?), they'll find inspection responsibilities shifted from a USDA employee to one of their own employees, who would be tasked with removing unfit or unsafe animals from the line. The rationale? Government inspectors would have more time to perform "offline" tasks, like checking sanitation compliance. (Offline, in this instance, meaning away from the processing line, rather than away from the internet.)

Interestingly, the new proposal also requires some new sampling: "FSIS is proposing to require that all official swine slaughter establishments develop, implement and maintain in their HACCP systems written procedures to prevent contamination of the pre-operational environment by enteric pathogens." (HACCP systems are management systems for monitoring food safety.) Essentially, this requires new sampling—testing for pathogens—on areas that come in contact with the livestock, rather than only the livestock itself. Good!

Except: the requirements for actually sampling the animals have been lessened as well. If a plant passes the test a certain number of times in a row, they won't be tested as often. (Will this result in fewer onerous inspections, or a sense of complacency that could result in violations which aren't spotted in time? Who knows?) Furthermore, plants will be allowed various "alternative" sampling plans that allow for the business to effectively choose when, where and how often to be tested, rather than leaving that scheduling up to the USDA.

Rules like these have been proposed before; as a matter of fact, there was already a pilot program back in 2013 to test a hands-off approach like this. A review from the Office of the Inspector General found an inadequate amount of oversight and reporting, and that the pilot program could thus not even be judged as effective or ineffective.

Food and Water Watch, an advocacy organization, wrote in a release that these proposals are "irresponsible."

"It is unacceptable to put public health, worker safety and animal welfare at risk so that the pork industry can run faster lines and inspect itself," said Wenonah Hauter, the organization's executive director. "We urge the USDA to withdraw this proposed rule."

You can read the entire proposed rule here. We're currently in the 60-day period for comment before the rule goes into effect.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter


georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images

By Jennifer Molidor

One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Remsburg / VW Pics / Getty Images

Botswana, home to one third of Africa's elephants, announced Wednesday that it was lifting its ban on the hunting of the large mammals.

"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pxhere

By Richard Denison

Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).

Read More Show Less
De Molen windmill and nuclear power plant cooling tower in Doel, Belgium. Trougnouf / CC BY-SA 4.0

By Grant Smith

From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Brett Walton / Circle of Blue

By Brett Walton

When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Gabriele Holtermann Gorden / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.

This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.

Read More Show Less
Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.

That's the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.

The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.

The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.

"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."

Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.

"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."

Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.

"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice held a press conference after the annual shareholder meeting on May 22. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice

Amazon shareholders voted down an employee-backed resolution calling for more aggressive action on climate change at their annual meeting Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Read More Show Less