The New York Times reports that the pork industry, not satisfied with a kill limit of over 1,000 hogs per hour, wants that limit removed and fewer federal inspectors stationed in the slaughterhouses to monitor compliance with safety and sanitary rules. (The inspectors examine the carcasses as they pass through the line and remove any parts that could be dangerous to consumers.)
What’s more, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) thinks that’s just fine and, if it gets its way with pork, is considering a similar rule for beef.
The pork producers say that allowing the slaughter lines to speed up without limits would “add flexibility to plant production schedules and staffing levels.”
The hogs, of course, can’t offer their input and apparently are of no concern to any of the agencies involved.
The FSIS says the proposed rule is based on current food safety science and “is a food safety rule first and foremost.” However, watchdog groups are raising their concerns with the Office of Management and Budget, arguing that increased slaughter-line speeds could endanger workers and public health. (Asked about worker safety, the Food Safety and Inspection Service stated that this is not in their jurisdiction.)
The underlying reasons the industry wants this change, the watchdog groups allege, would seem obvious: more money for the pork producers and fewer inspectors for the government to have to pay.
Some objecting, including Deborah Berkowitz, a senior official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under President Obama, say the USDA has always been in the meat industries’ camp.
According to Berkowitz, the main focus of the USDA “is to increase the profits of the meatpacking and poultry industry that they regulate.” Other critics view the proposed rule change as another move by the current administration to roll back regulations on business so they can make more profit.
Nowhere in the article is the hogs’ potential suffering mentioned, even though plant employees with varying amounts of training would replace the dismissed inspectors on the line as well as in sorting the animals before slaughter. As VEGWORLD readers know too well, this could easily lead to abusing them in the effort to meet the quotas of the faster processing lines.
For more information, visit https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/inspection.