National Consumers League

Meatpacking workers, consumers safeguarded by House measure to overhaul pork line speed rule

June 5, 2019

Amendment blocks the USDA from issuing final rule on swine inspection, pending OIG study to support food safety rules

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC The National Consumers League (NCL) is commending Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and David Price (D-NC) for teaming up to offer an amendment to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s misguided and hazardous proposed rule to strip all speed limits at pig slaughterhouses and to force transparency around its flawed process. The removal of limits could allow slaughterhouses to handle a mind-boggling 1,300 or more pigs per hour and risk improper stun-gunning of livestock in the rush to process them quickly, endangering workers’ safety, public health, and animal welfare.

“Even at current line speeds, pork slaughter and processing workers face many job risks that can lead to severe injury, illness, and death. Meatpacking workers in hog slaughter plants work in cold, wet, noisy, and slippery conditions, making tens of thousands of forceful repetitive motions on each shift. Meatpacking workers are injured at 2.4 times the rate of other industries and they face illness rates at 17 times the rate of other industries,” wrote members of Congress in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The proposed rule would also turn over inspection responsibilities to company employees, allow slaughterhouses to define their own microbiological criteria for food safety performance, and usher in comprehensive reforms to longstanding inspection practices without a reliable means of evaluating their efficacy.

The “modernization” of the Swine Slaughter Inspection System will not lead to safer food. Eliminating line speed limits makes it harder for federal meat inspectors and workers in plants to do their jobs. Ultimately, this means it will be less safe for consumers to eat pork.

The amendment blocks funding for implementation of the rule until the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts an investigation of all data used by the USDA to develop the proposal. Previously, this data, including worker-safety data was not publicly disclosed until after the closure of the public review and comment period for the proposed rule. The Amendment mandates that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service fully address and resolve the issues raised by the OIG before the funding hold can be lifted.

NCL is deeply grateful for the leadership of Reps. DeLauro and Price and wishes for the Senate to sustain this vital amendment.

###

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.