Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

I've a Feeling We're in Kansas, Toto

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

I've a Feeling We're in Kansas, Toto

Article excerpt

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has always had a built-in conflict of interest, given its dual missions of protecting both agribusiness and the public's health. Sadly, two recent actions suggest that the agency's commitment to safeguarding consumers is flagging.

* Privatizing pork inspection. In September, the USDA published a rule transferring some of the work once done by USDA inspectors to private-slaughterhouse employees.

The rule would also allow slaughter lines to run at unlimited speeds, raising concerns that diseased animals will end up in the food supply, that slaughterhouse workers will get injured, or that some hogs won't get stunned before they're killed.

In June, the USDA's Inspector General started an investigation to find out if the agency hid data on workers' injuries while the proposed rule was open for public comment. And in October, a union that represents meatpackers filed a lawsuit charging that lifting the cap on line speeds--currently set at roughly 18 hogs per minute--will endanger workers.

The USDA privatized poultry inspection in 2014, but with two key differences: First, the agency kept caps on slaughter-line speeds. Second, it set standards for inspectors to test poultry for Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria before letting industry inspectors take over. The pork rule includes neither.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (which publishes Nutrition Action) will continue to fight the new pork-inspection rule. We're urging Congress to block the rule's funding until the USDA sets standards for both food safety and worker safety. …

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