March 23, 2018

Food & Water Watch Criticizes USDA Meat Inspection Plans

Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch states that the USDA is “dismantling the meat inspection system as we know it.” Information received through the Freedom of Information Act from USDA’s FSIS had a spreadsheet with the number of temporary inspectors hired and where they are working.

Chicken CarcassesLast December, FSIS posted “As the Food Safety and Inspection Service looks to transition through modernization and implementation of the New Poultry Slaughter Inspection System, the Agency is announcing temporary Food Inspector positions to facilitate the transition and to help ensure seamless implementation should the Agency decide to proceed with implementation of the new system.”

That new system, commonly known as HIMP, has been heavily criticized by many consumer, food safety, and worker safety advocates as being quite flawed. And unfortunately and surprisingly, the spreadsheet shows that 35% of the new temporary workers are being placed in red meat slaughter facilities. The recent huge recall of beef from Rancho Feeding Corporation that was not federally inspected may be related to this fact.

Food & Water Watch claims that “the information we received confirms that the policy of not filling inspector vacancies with permanent employees is causing a distortion in the hiring practices at FSIS.” In addition, hiring temporary employees, without benefits and worker protections, is broader than first thought, as evidenced by the fact that temporary employees, hired under the guise of a privatized poultry inspection rule, are being assigned to beef and hog slaughter facilities.

Mr. Corbo concludes that “it’s not about phasing out permanent inspectors because of pending plans to implement the rule; it’s about cutting the food safety inspection budget by essentially contracting out what were previously paid, professional career positions with low-paid temps. But we can ill afford the consequences of weakened food safety inspections.”

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