September 30, 2016

OSHA Issues Rules for Retaliation Complaints Under FSMA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today published a final rule establishing procedures for retaliation complaints under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This part of FSMA, which was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, protects employees who "blow the whistle" about potential violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act from retaliation by employers. Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels said in a statement, "food industry workers must never be silenced by the threat of losing their jobs when their safety or the safety of the public is at stake. This rule underscores the agency's commitment to protect the rights of workers who report illegal activity in their workplace." The final rule was made effective on April 18, … [Read more...]

Humane Society Launches Whistleblower Program

The Humane Society of the United States has launched a whistleblower program for factory farm workers. The hotline will let employees at those farms, in slaughterhouses, and at livestock auctions report cruelty and animal abuse. The hotline (1-888-209-7177) offers a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who have committed acts of cruelty to farm animals. The hotline will be distributed to factory farm workers with the help of the United Farm Workers union. Hotline callers can remain anonymous if they want. Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the HSUS said in a statement, "the bleak conditions endured by animals on factory farms are often made worse by overt violence an neglect. Pigs are often beaten. Chickens are … [Read more...]

Whistleblowers Can File OSHA Complaints Online

Whistleblowers have long been recognized as a check on corporations. In fact, whistleblowers are protected through the Department of Labor under Whistleblower Protection Programs. Any employee who reports a violation of workplace safety, food safety, or other problems cannot be fired, blacklisted, demoted, disciplined, or otherwise retaliated against by the corporation. Now whistleblowers can file OSHA complaints online. OSHA does handle food safety complaints. Abatement requirements were put in place after a March 1999 food poisoning outbreak among garment workers who had eaten at the company cafeteria. Those requirements help ensure that food purchased for distribution to employees if free of harmful chemical and biological contamination, that food served to employees is stored and … [Read more...]

FSMA Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed Against Brothers International Food Corp.

Last week, Colin Chase, a former employee of Brothers International Food Corporation, sued the company in federal court, alleging the company violated the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) whistleblower protection. The Director of eCommerce was fired in July 2012 after telling management that expired potato chips were being re-dated and placed on the market for sale. He was also concerned that dehydrated apple crisps were being improperly rehydrated, possibly making them vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Fuji Apple Fruit Crisps were referred to internally as the "soggy", "soft" or "bad" apple situation. The Company responded by saying that new expiration dates would be put on the potato chips. Chase was told to  tell customers the reason for re-dating was that the product had … [Read more...]

Center for Food Integrity Launches Ag Gag Whistleblower Initiative

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) has launched a new initiative called See it? Stop it! It gives farm workers the tools to take action to stop animal abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and harm. The initiative is in response to so-called ag gag laws that have been passed in many agricultural-heavy states, making it a crime to video animal abuse on farms. Just this year, the Wyoming House passed an ag gag bill, and a bill was introduced in Illinois, New Hampshire, and Nebraska. These bills are opposed by animal rights groups such as the Humane Society. The Illinois bill, in fact, imposes criminal charges against anyone who complains about inhumane treatment that the Department of Agriculture finds is "false or unfounded." The bills are in response to uproars triggered by undercover videos … [Read more...]

Wyoming House Passes Ag Gag Bill; Bill Introduced in Illinois

The Wyoming House passed its ag-gag bill, HB 126 this last week. The summary of the bill states "An ACT relating to agriculture; establishing the offense of interfering with an agricultural operation; providing immunity for reporting cruelty to livestock as specified; providing for assistance by livestock board; providing definitions; providing a penalty; and providing for an effective date. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Wallis (R) and Senator Driskill (R), passed with a 33 to 27 vote. The bill makes it a crime to "knowingly or intentionally" record images or sounds of an agricultural operation with concealed devices without the owner's consent. The bill does state that anyone who reports abuse to local police "within 48 hours" is immune from civil liability. Criminal penalties, however, … [Read more...]

Congress Passes Whistleblower Protection Act

On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, the Senate approved the Whistleblower Protection Act, which provides new protections for federal employees. The legislation passed the House in September. President Obama is expected to sign the bill. The Government Accountability Project's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) has listed types of actions that would be protected under the new law. They include, for example, an FDA inspector who exposes falsification of records at farms, a public health veterinarian telling a USDA supervisor that a slaughterhouse is violating humane handling regulations, and an FDA researcher whose attempts to publish new findings on a food ingredient are suppressed. It also protects government scientists who challenge censorship and cancels the 1999 precedent that translates … [Read more...]

US Department of Labor’s OSHA Establishes Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the establishment of a Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee. This body will make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor on ways to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of OSHA's administration of whistleblower protections. Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health said in the news release, "Workers who expose securities and financial fraud, adulterated foods, air and water pollution, or workplace safety hazards have a legal right to speak out without fear of retaliation, and the laws that protect these whistleblowers also protect the health, safety, and well-being of all Americans." The Occupational Safety and … [Read more...]

Salmonella Ranks Highest in Reports to FDA’s Early-Warning Registry

For the second year in a row, Salmonella accounted for the largest percentage of hazards reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under a new, early-warning reporting system. Called the Reportable Food Registry, it requires manufacturers, processors, packers and distributors of FDA-regulated foods and animal feeds to quickly report to FDA any foods, feeds or ingredients that could result in serious adverse health consequences to humans or animals. According to a new FDA report for the 12-month period that ended September 7, 2011, there were 225 primary, online reports involving 22 commodity categories. Salmonella accounted for 38.2 percent of reported hazards -- a leading percentage that was very similar to the registry's results in Year 1. Undeclared allergens accounted … [Read more...]

Missouri Mulls Ag Gag Bill

Missouri is the latest state to consider passing a so-called “ag-gag” law that would criminalize the act of getting a job at an agriculture production facility expressly to gain access to make audio or visual recordings. Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, is the sponsor of the bill which would make it: a Class B misdemeanor to use false pretenses to gain access to an agricultural production facility; a Class A misdemeanor to record images or sounds from such facilities and a Class D felony if there had been a previous violation. These kinds of bills are gaining traction in some agricultural states after footage of animal cruelty captured by “undercover” animal rights activists created several high-profile stories. Four years ago, the Humane Society captured footage of downer cattle … [Read more...]

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