Pork industry soon will have more power over meat inspections

Posted on April 3, 2019 by


by Kimberly Kindy

A 3-month-old pig sits in a pen in Iowa. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

The Trump administration plans to shift much of the power and responsibility for food safety inspections in hog plants to the pork industry as early as May, cutting the number of federal inspectors by about 40 percent and replacing them with plant employees.

Under the proposed new inspection system, the responsibility for identifying diseased and contaminated pork would be shared with plant employees, whose training would be at the discretion of plant owners. There would be no limits on slaughter-line speeds.

The new pork inspection system would accelerate the federal government’s move toward delegating inspections to the livestock industry. During the Obama administration, poultry plant owners were given more power over safety inspections, although that administration canceled plans to increase line speeds. The Trump administration in September allowed some poultry plants to increase line speeds.

The Trump administration also is working to shift inspection of beef to plant owners. Agriculture Department officials are scheduled next month to discuss the proposed changes with the meat industry.

These proposals, part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to reduce regulations, come as the federal government is under fire for delegating some of its aircraft safety oversight responsibilities to Boeing, which developed the 737 Max jets involved in two fatal crashes over the past six months. Federal Aviation Administration certification of the two aircraft involved in the crashes took place under Trump, but the major shift toward delegating key aspects of aviation oversight began during the George W. Bush administration.

Pat Basu, the chief veterinarian with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service from 2016 to 2018, refused to sign off on the new pork system because of concerns about safety for both consumers and livestock. The USDA sent the proposed regulations to the Federal Register about a week after Basu left, and they were published less than a month later, according to records and interviews.

“Look at the FAA. It took a year or so before the crashes happened,” Basu said. “This could pass and everything could be okay for a while, until some disease is missed and we have an outbreak all over the country. It would be an economic disaster that would be very hard to recover from.”

Basu’s top concern is with giving plant workers the responsibility for identifying and removing live diseased hogs when they arrive at the plants. He said that job should remain with trained USDA veterinarians so they can identify contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth disease, which can maim and destroy livestock, creating profound effects on the economy. One analysis by Kansas State University researchers determined such an outbreak could cost producers and the public $188 billion and state and federal governments $11 billion.

source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/pork-industry-soon-will-have-more-power-over-meat-inspections/2019/04/03/12921fea-4f30-11e9-8d28-f5149e5a2fda_story.html?utm_term=.4bcaa48cbcf5

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Posted in: Family safety