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May 25, 2019

UFCW: New USDA Pork Plant Change Needlessly Threatens America’s Food Safety

Largest Private-Sector Union Representing Thousands of Pork Workers Calls on USDA to Stop Inspection Change that Threatens America’s Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced its opposition to a new proposal by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which shifts some meat inspection responsibilities from its inspectors to pork plant employees. UFCW President Marc Perrone, who represents thousands of meatpacking workers across the country, released the following statement:

“For over 100 years, USDA inspectors have played a vital role in ensuring the safety of our pork. This change to USDA meat inspection rules would dramatically weaken the critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.

“Shifting the responsibility onto pork workers, instead of the USDA inspectors who are specifically trained for this critical job, is needlessly reckless and dangerous. Our members in pork plants work incredibly hard already and stand with families across the country to demand USDA keep our food safe and let inspectors do their job.”

BACKGROUND

With the USDA’s test hog-inspection program expected to expand this summer after the agency approves new rules, 35 plants already plan to join the five test plants in using the new program. Together, these plants would produce 90 percent of the pork consumed in the United States.

USDA Meat Inspection Policy Change Impact

  • Federal inspectors on hog slaughter lines at the plants new to the program will be cut from 365 to 218, a 40 percent cut.
  • The overall number of inspectors at those plants will drop from 400 to 288, a decline of 28 percent, according to figures provided by the USDA.
  • The new policy will allow the slaughter-line speeds to run as fast as the plant desires. The current cap on line speed is 1,106 hogs per hour, or 18 per minute.

In its report, the Washington Post notes that food safety groups and the USDA inspectors’ union say they are concerned that “increased line speeds and federal staff reductions on those lines will cause diseased and contaminated meat to slip by the remaining inspectors.” These groups also cite an inherent conflict-of-interest with pork producers overseeing inspections of their own products. Training for those workers, they point out, is also done entirely at the plant owners’ discretion.”

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org