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There is Poop on Your Pork, and Government Inspectors Don’t Care

There is Poop on Your Pork, and Government Inspectors Don’t Care
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The USDA has admitted that its own pig slaughterhouse inspectors are not doing their jobs properly, and “as a result, there is reduced assurance of…inspectors effectively identifying pork that should not enter the food supply.”

The May 9th report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that slaughterhouses are free to run amok and are selling tainted meat to consumers because inspectors are not enforcing the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). Inspectors and slaughterhouses are also ignoring the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), an anti-cruelty law, leading to animal deaths more horrific than usual.

The lax inspectors work for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an arm of the USDA. The report describes FSIS as “the public health agency…responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.” When FSIS employees don’t do their jobs thoroughly and conscientiously, people can die from food poisoning.

The problem is huge. There are 8,600 FSIS inspectors for 6,300 slaughter and processing plants, or an average of only 1.4 inspectors — who are expected to visually and manually inspect every animal — per facility. In one year the 616 slaughter and processing plants that handle pigs killed over 110 million animals.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act

The FMIA requires inspectors to check pigs both before and after slaughter for signs of disease. The report characterizes these inspections as “one of FSIS’ primary means of removing diseased animals from the meat supply.” If those inspections are not performed correctly, or at all, diseased pork is more likely to make it all the way to consumers’ plates. This is a real threat: each year tens of millions of people contract food poisoning, hundreds of thousands of them must go to the hospital for treatment, and thousands of them die.

The Humane Method of Slaughter Act

The HMSA requires humane handling and slaughter of pigs (and other animals) “to prevent…needless suffering.” The report describes FSIS inspectors’ duties under the HMSA:

Inspectors’ duties include: ensuring that there are adequate measures in case of inclement weather, observing truck unloading, checking water and feed availability, observing handling during ante-mortem inspection, observing handling of suspect and disabled livestock, observing electric prod use, monitoring for slips and falls, checking stunning effectiveness, and checking for conscious animals hanging on the slaughter rail.

The “slaughter rail” is where pigs are suspended (by one ankle) after they are stunned so their blood will drain out when their throats are cut. Hanging all of a factory-farmed pig’s weight from one ankle can shear the skin down to the bone — just one more pain to add to the terror of pigs who are conscious on the slaughter rail.

Enforcement

Inspectors who find legal violations are empowered to penalize the guilty company. They “have numerous options ranging in severity from issuing a citation to suspending [i.e. closing] the plant.”

The USDA reported that audits going back at least as far as 2004 uncovered serious gaps and laxity in HMSA and FMIA enforcement. One example was a 2012 audit of egg inspection:

When FSIS identified egregious violations or repeat violators, it did not initiate progressively stronger enforcement actions. The agency’s lenient enforcement policy did not deter serious violations or repeat violators, and the strongest enforcement actions that FSIS initiated were warning letters.

This year’s report demonstrates that the previous audits did not make inspectors do their jobs better, leading to the unpleasant suspicion that this report won’t shake up FSIS either.

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Photo credit: iStockphoto

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282 comments

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7:46AM PDT on Jul 5, 2013

thanks for sharing

12:32PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Just to remind everyone:

By the 1960's , humans had killed off 250 MIlLION of their fellow humans.

So the word, "Humane?" A one-word oxymoron?

12:28PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Thanks for the sadly disturbing article.

I had already cut my pork ( bacon) to "rarely;" I better cut it down to "never."

And move as much as I can to vegan.

So bad for those poor, sentient creatures.

8:42AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Maybe the inspectors who work for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) get payoffs from the slaughterhouses? I realize they're overworked but I also think there's more to their ineffectiveness at doing their job.

4:20AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

The country doesn't matter, the species seems irrelevant too, the fact of the matter in my opinion is :
That the Meat Industries Practice's, leave a lot to be Desired.. The Whole Thing's Gross :-(

1:23AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Mark, you're being rude, disrespectful and insulting AGAIN. Do you ever stop? You're completely out-of-line and that accusation is one of your usual ridiculous ones, typical for you, and why stop at advising others to ignore me? Why not tell everyone to ignore everybody BUT you, since you seem to think your opinions (and that's all they are, your opinions) are the only valid ones in this site. Where did you ever get the idea that I'm friends with anyone who works in the slaughter industry? That's a far stretch, even for you. As for "shame", the only shame I feel is for being the same species as you are, but then you have said many times that being human makes you ashamed and you hate humans.

8:17PM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

It's best practice to ignore Diane L's excuses for atrocities committed by human species since she has such good friends in the slaughterhouse industry, she's apparently struggling with the shame

8:10PM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

really, 110 million animals? And the depraved human race was pretending to be up in arms about Hitler's concentration camps killing 6 million of their own. The horror of the human species and its hypocrisy knows no limit.

12:39PM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

Ouch these stories make a person wonder a lot about the choices made....... Poor animals..... hopefully things will change soon for the best..

5:18AM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

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