October 16, 2020

Food & Water Watch: New Swine Inspection System Could Spur Pandemic

Food & Water Watch, commenting on the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) proposed by the USDA, says that this new swine inspection system is so dangerous it could spur another zoonotic pandemic. Zoonotic diseases are those that make the jump from animals to humans.

Food & Water Watch: New Swine Inspection System Could Spur Pandemic

Food safety agencies, including Center for Food Safety, have issued warnings about this new system for months. The system would let corporation. employees inspect the carcasses instead of federal inspectors. It also surrenders federal control over removing contamination from carcasses by untrained employees. It also lifts limits on slaughter line speeds.

That means plant employees can determine which animals are fit for slaughter, which carcasses can be placed into commerce, and can set their own line speeds. Food & Water Watch received new data on the proposed system through a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The data shows that USDA veterinarians could evaluate 3.5 times fewer potentially diseased animals and carcasses, compared to plants that were operating under normal inspection rules.

This is a direct contradiction to USDA promises that inspection requirements would be unaffected by the New Swine Inspection System rules. Food & Water Watch is concerned that the new system would let employees ship animals that are exhibiting signs of dangerous disease elsewhere.

Zach Corrigan, senior staff attorney at Food & Watch Watch said in a statement, “Self-regulation when it comes to animal movement, slaughter, and meat inspection is bad news.  This data shows just how bad it really is. While people across the country are fighting against a dangerous pandemic believed to have come first from animals, USDA is eliminating necessary safeguards against the spread of infectious diseases from swine. USDA is endangering public health. They should shut down NSIS immediately.”

The new rules were finalized in October 2019 and are now being implemented in slaughter plants around the country. The USDA has rejected requests to stop the transition to the new rules in light of the online COVID-19 pandemic.

Ryan Talbott, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety said, “If this moment teaches us anything, it is that deregulating public health standards can have disastrous consequences. The reason we have federal regulation of meat is because the industry failed to protect public health a century ago.”

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