Quantcast

'Dangerous Proposal': USDA Seeking to Replace Government Inspectors at Beef Slaughter Plants With Private Employees

Food
USDA Food Safety Inspection Service inspector examines frozen meat in New Orleans. U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

By Julia Conley

In an apparent effort to boost profits for meat manufacturers despite potential harms to food safety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reportedly planning to privatize inspections of beef slaughter plants.


Food and Water Watch reported Monday that the USDA is pursuing deregulation of the food inspection system that has been used for years at beef slaughterhouses. The information came from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The group released an application from beef, pork, and poultry manufacturer Tyson Foods, in which the company requested a waiver to allow Tyson employees to conduct more inspections at its beef plant in Holcolm, Kansas, instead of relying on USDA food safety inspectors.

"This dangerous proposal could rid beef slaughter plants of most government inspectors," Food and Water Watch said in a statement.

The documents were uncovered after many recent denials by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that it plans to privatize inspections of mass-produced beef, Food and Water Watch stated.

Tyson's proposal comes 21 years after FSIS first launched a pilot program in more than two dozen poultry and pork plants in which government food safety inspectors were replaced by the manufacturers' own inspectors, allowing the companies to regulate themselves.

In 2013, the USDA's inspector general found that the agency "did not critically assess whether the new inspection process had measurably improved food safety at each plant" that produced pork.

The following year, FSIS expanded the program to the entire poultry industry. The agency will not conduct an assessment of the new system's effects on food safety until 2022.

"The previous attempts at privatized inspection have led to weaker food safety performance and are a ploy by the industry to increase line speeds," said Tony Corbo, a senior lobbyist with Food and Water Watch.

Despite a lack of evidence that the privatized food safety inspection system is making food safer — and CDC data showing that foodborne illnesses from foods including chicken have been on the rise since 2015 — FSIS is weakening standards in order to increase the speed with which meat is processed, allowing for greater manufacturing profits.

"The Tyson plant in Holcomb, Kansas is approved to operate at the current maximum line speed allowable" said Corbo. "FSIS management has had difficulty meeting its inspection staffing requirements in the past in western Kansas, which has contributed to beef slaughter plants not being able to maintain maximum line speeds. Tyson's solution seems to be to get rid of the government inspectors."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Justin Trudeau delivers remarks during an election rally in Markham, Ontario, Canada, on Sept. 15. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. / NurPhoto via Getty Images

By Chloe Farand for Climate Home News

Canadians are voting on Monday in an election observers say will define the country's climate future.

Read More Show Less
Activists Greta Thunberg (2ndL), Iris Duquesne(C), and Alexandria Villaseñor (3rd R) attend a press conference where 16 children present their official human rights complaint on the climate crisis to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child at the UNICEF Building on Sept. 23 in NYC. KENA BETANCUR / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Taft

Fifteen kids from a dozen countries, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, recently brought a formal complaint to the United Nations. They're arguing that climate change violates children's rights as guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a global agreement.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on could fall heavily on the public.
Susan Vineyard / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Justin Mikulka

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

Read More Show Less
Blue tarps given out by FEMA cover several roofs two years after Hurricane Maria affected the island in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 18. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP / Getty Images

Top officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development confirmed to lawmakers last week that they knowingly — and illegally — stalled hurricane aid to Puerto Rico.

Read More Show Less
Actress Jane Fonda (C) and actor Sam Waterston (L) participate in a protest in front of the U.S. Capitol during a "Fire Drill Fridays" climate change protest and rally on Capitol Hill, Oct. 18. Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

It appears Jane Fonda is good for her word. The actress and political activist said she would hold demonstrations on Capitol Hill every Friday through January to demand action on the climate crisis. Sure enough, Fonda was arrested for demonstrating a second Friday in a row Oct. 18, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Only this time, her Grace and Frankie co-star Sam Waterston joined her.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Visitors look at the Aletsch glacier above Bettmeralp, in the Swiss Alps, on Oct. 1. The mighty Aletsch — the largest glacier in the Alps — could completely disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to rein in climate change, a study showed on Sept. 12. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Switzerland's two Green parties made historic gains in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday, according to projections based on preliminary results reported by The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
A mural in Richwood, West Virginia, a once booming Appalachia coal town, honors the community's history. Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

The coal industry is dying. But we can't allow the communities that have been dependent on coal to die along with it.

Read More Show Less
ThitareeSarmkasat / iStock / Getty Images

by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Every fruit lover has their go-to favorites. Bananas, apples, and melons are popular choices worldwide and can be purchased almost anywhere.

Read More Show Less