Two years after Elsa Murano resigned from her position as chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s slaughterhouse food safety division, she joined the board of directors at Hormel, which runs some of the nation’s largest slaughterhouses.
This is just one example of the ‘revolving door’ phenomenon that occurs in which U.S. government regulators frequently remain tied to the companies they’re supposed to be regulating.
But that’s hardly the most shocking thing you’ll find in this article.
Recently, the Government Accountability Project exposed the conditions of three hog slaughter facilities operated in association with Hormel. Four inspectors testified, three of which did so anonymously. What follows are some of the comments that one inspector made.
“Not only are plant supervisors not trained, the employees taking over USDA’s inspection duties have no idea what they are doing. Most of them come into the plant with no knowledge of pathology or the industry in general.” See the affidavit here.
“Food safety has gone down the drain under HIMP. Even though fecal contamination has increased under the program (though the company does a good job of hiding it), USDA inspectors are encouraged not to stop the line for fecal contamination.”
“HIMP was initially designed for the kill of young, healthy animals. This hasn’t always been the case. A lot of the animals the plant has killed were too old. Some also had different diseases. They didn’t even slow down the line for the diseased carcasses.”
“The company threatens plant employees with terminations if they see them condemning too many carcasses or carcass parts.”
The comments from each of the four inspectors additionally reveal that the responsibility for monitoring the sanitation of the kill line has shifted from USDA-employed inspectors to employees of the companies who own the facilities. This shift has occurred under a pilot project called HIMP – short for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points-based Inspection Models Project.
But the shift in responsibility isn’t the only corrupt thing about the HIMP project. HIMP plants are granted the right to speed up the rate of their kill line by nearly 20 percent. In other words, this is a classic case of the ‘privatize and speed up’ model that has been seen in the meat industry over the past several years.
There was a similar pilot project run by the USDA for several years in regards to the slaughtering of chickens. However, after much pushback and media attention, the USDA revoked the right for chicken slaughterhouses to speed up the kill line.
That shows just how much power we, the buying public, have over the quality and inspection of our food. If we forced the USDA to revoke their decision when it came to chicken slaughterhouses, what’s to say we can’t take back our bacon slaughterhouses as well?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on eating bacon that was rushed through the inspection process.