Food Safety Enforcement
Inspectors’ enforcement efforts, such as they are, aren’t stopping swine slaughterhouses from repeatedly violating food safety laws. The problem, according to the OIG, is that FSIS inspectors do not
Some corroborating evidence: 44,128 noncompliance records that inspectors issued to 616 plants led to the suspension of only 28 plants over four years, despite repeated egregious violations at some facilities like “fecal matter on previously cleaned carcasses.” Some of those suspensions were as short as one day.
Many repeat-offender facilities that richly deserved suspension got off with slaps on the wrist.
FSIS inspectors are responsible for the corpse’s innards as well as its appearance on the outside. But some inspectors just aren’t looking inside, even when they know OIG auditors are watching them. They may be missing “parasites, inflammation, swelling, or masses that might indicate disease.”
Inspectors are neglecting pigs’ welfare as much as food safety.
As with the FMIA, inspectors did not adequately enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Their enforcement decisions were subjective, inconsistent and lenient, allowing slaughter plants to continue breaking the law without consequence.
What inspectors are supposed to do is immediately suspend facilities that commit “egregious” violations, meaning they caused severe harm to animals. What the inspectors actually did often was to take no action at all. Inspectors did nothing about these legal violations:
Auditors witnessed these violations though they spent no more than 30 minutes watching the stunning process in each facility. Extrapolation suggests that similar violations occur regularly at many plants and that inspectors take no enforcement action, and the evidence bears that out:
Getting Inspectors to Do Their Jobs
The USDA Inspector General’s office made recommendations in the report intended to address each of the problems it documented. FSIS responded with its own proposals for fixing the problems. OIG accepted every one of FSIS’s proposals.
Because previous audits did not made things better I hold out little hope that this report will dramatically reform FSIS. My recommendation, like that of Bruce Friedrich in the Huffington Post, is to stop eating meat. Unless you don’t mind feces dressing on your bacon.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
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