Today, a federal judge ruled against advocates for safer meat processing in a case brought by Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety and the Humane Farming Association regarding implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS). Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Sonny Perdue, No.4:20-cv-00256-JSW (N.D. Cal). The Trump administration rule greatly undermines the ability of federal inspectors to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses by fully inspecting hog carcasses, and instead allows plant employees with little training to take over several steps.
"Because the Court failed to condemn these Trump-era reductions in safety measures for hog slaughter, we can only hope we don't see more foodborne illness or even further pandemics that should be protected by our federal meat processing law," said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with plaintiff Center for Food Safety. "We are exploring all options and will keep fighting the corporate-controlled meat industry to protect public safety and a healthy food supply."
The NSIS program relies in large part on meat company employees conducting inspections instead of government inspectors, a radical departure from long-established practice. Despite raising significant dangers to public health from replacing federal inspectors with plant employees (trained and employed by the slaughterhouses), the federal court dismissed the concerns and agreed with USDA that the federal inspection required by Congress would still take place. The industry push for 'self-regulation' goes back decades, and in the 1990s the USDA began moving in that direction. Since the government projects widespread adoption of the NSIS rules (plants producing over 90 percent of the U.S. pork supply), these policies will greatly impact consumers.
"We are disappointed that the court upheld USDA's dangerous rules, allowing profit-driven meat companies to ramp up line speeds and police their own slaughterhouses, putting both workers and consumers at risk in the process. While USDA continues to let the fox guard the henhouse, Food & Water Watch will keep working to hold Big Ag accountable for its harms to frontline workers, consumers, animals, and the environment," said Tarah Heinzen, legal director of Food & Water Watch.
"This ruling is deeply disturbing," said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association. "USDA should not be relying on the industry's own employees to conduct federal meat inspection. Food safety and humane slaughter laws should be vigorously enforced by federal inspectors for the sake of both animal welfare and public health."
Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than one million members across the country at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
Food & Water Watch is a national advocacy organization that mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. www.foodandwaterwatch.org
The Humane Farming Association (HFA) is a national, non-profit, animal protection and consumer advocacy organization working to advance the humane treatment of farm animals and protect human health. www.hfa.org
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