The Food Integrity Campaign (“FIC”) is pushing to stop Hormel from its practice of high-speed hog processing without a proper safety inspection process in place. Hormel owns three out of five hog plants currently participating in a controversial pilot program that increases line speeds and deregulates meat inspection by shifting authority from government inspectors to industry to monitor food safety. The FIC is asking people to sign a petition to convince Hormel to slow down speeds at their plants to keep food safe.
The USDA Office of Inspector General and the FIC have both evaluated the pilot program and have said the USDA has executed little to no effort in making sure its hog inspection plan proved effective. Serious concerns they raised with the program include:
- Line speeds are too fast. The line speeds at pilot plants run too fast for plant employees – or even USDA inspectors – to detect contamination.
- No inspection of organs. Neither USDA inspectors nor company employees manually inspected the pigs’ organs, which is where signs of disease or contamination are found. This is a key task in safety inspection.
- No whistleblower protections for industry employees. USDA employees have whistleblower protections and can speak on behalf of the plant workers. Hormel employees are in the private sector and have inadequate legal safeguards. They cannot safely report food safety problems or stop the lines without fear of retaliation.
- Company employees lack training. Company employees often fail to identify signs of defects and contamination. Inspectors in pilot plants report a higher level of zero-tolerance food safety hazards compared to plants operating under traditional inspection.
It is no surprise that USDA inspectors monitoring Hormel’s self-inspection program are saying signs of contamination like hair, toenails and feces are being missed under the program. One inspector said in an affidavit, “USDA inspectors are encouraged not to stop the line for fecal contamination” and “the company threatens plant employees with terminations if they see them condemning too many carcasses or carcass parts.”
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