A report just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found swine slaughter facilities throughout the country are guilty of repeatedly violating USDA regulations with little or no consequences attached to their actions. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for ensuring that the U.S. commercial meat, poultry, and egg supplies are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, has failed to take stronger enforcement action against repeat violators of the Humane Method of Slaughter Act regulations. In addition it failed to distinguish between serious violations and minor infractions, and failed to provide guidance on what should be done to remedy the problems.
There are 616 plants in this country licensed to slaughter swine. From 2008 to 2011, FSIS issued 44,128 noncompliance records, yet only 28 plants were suspended, even though some of the violations warranted plant closure. Furthermore, FSIS failed to monitor the results of a pilot program for five slaughterhouses that streamlined line inspections to allow for faster speeds in processing animals. In fact, three of the 10 plants cited with the most violations participated in this pilot program, including the plant with the worst record nationwide. One of the plants failed to provide for any visual inspection of viscera (an animal’s internal organs), despite the fact that a manual inspection of viscera is required by agency policy and because there is no other way to effectively identify some signs of disease and contamination.
The OIG made several recommendations to improve inspections and enforcement activities, but these same issues were identified as problems in past OIG audits of U.S. slaughterhouses in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. FSIS has done little to change. It is critical that the head of the USDA provide leadership in addressing these issues of the humane treatment of animals and food safety concerns immediately.
Please send a letter to Secretary Vilsack and ask that he exercise his leadership to ensure that these issues are addressed and that inspectors receive the training they need to properly do their job.
Call to action: