Food Safety is ‘Going Ham’ to Please Pork Industry

September 17, 2019

By Jackie Filson

Image of workers in a pork processing facility handling raw meat
Triumph Foods pork processing facility April 28, 2017 in St. Joseph, Mo. USDA photo by Preston Keres

The finalization of the Trump administration’s new plan to privatize hog-slaughter inspection is a huge loss for food safety and a kowtow to the pork industry.

Before this, hog slaughter plants had two major requirements for mass-hog slaughter:

  1. Federal workers must inspect each hog carcass for public health risks like lesions, infected organs, fecal matter or other contamination in an “inspection line”
  2. These inspection lines can move the hog carcasses at a maximum speed of 1,106 hogs per hour (that’s about 3.5 seconds per 250-pound animal)

The Trump administration’s proposed new inspection system removes up to 40 percent of trained federal inspectors from slaughter lines and replaces them with company employees who are not required to be trained.

Our own Patty Lovera tells NPR about this new and irresponsible plan:

Privatization Means Food Contamination

Big pork slaughter companies have been trying to increase profit by doing away with slaughter line speed limits for years. It’s no coincidence that these same companies are on board with the new inspection system: privatizing inspection of hog slaughter facilities could open the door to pushing the pork industry’s goal of increasing line speed limits.

Previous attempts to privatize inspection have led to weaker food safety performance. There’s no doubt about it: removing government control over hog slaughter inspection means more contaminated food on our tables.

Americans Don’t Support the Rule

In all parts of the country, among all demographics, and across party lines, Americans overwhelmingly oppose this change to inspection in hog processing. Midwesterners, who make up the communities closest to the hog slaughter industry, opposed this proposed change by a stunning 70 percent margin in national polling.

The USDA should withdraw this rule in order to fulfill its duty to protect food safety. It’s time to put public health, worker safety and animal welfare above the profit-driven scheme to avoid government inspection of the pork industry.