A pilot program for inspecting meat launched by the Department of Agriculture has repeatedly failed to prevent contaminated meat from being caught, according to a lengthy report in The Washington Post. Five US pork processing plants enrolled in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) in 1997, which both sped up processing lines by up to 20 percent and allowed companies to employ their own inspectors instead of ones employed by the government. So, to recap, a program that sped up production and reduced government oversight has somehow been inadequate in weeding out contaminated meat products.
Despite the program being in place for more that 15 years, the USDA still has yet to publish a report on whether or not the program has been working in increasing production and reducing cost to the federal government.
According to the new report, of the five hog plants enrolled in the pilot program, three were among the nation's top ten worst offenders in terms of health and safety violations. The Post cites reports from inspectors who say that attempts to slow the line or raise concerns have been ignored or met with anger.
The questionable procedures have also been implemented by plants abroad in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Australia is cited in the article as the worst offender by far. In June, at an emergency meeting, the USDA temporarily barred Australia from exporting meat products to the US.
Bill Bennett, a union representative for government inspectors who worked at the plant, said that government employees in Canada are no longer positioned at places along the line where they can spot contamination and that company employees are reluctant to slow or stop the lines when a problem arises. If they try, they can be overruled by plant supervisors, said Bennett, of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.
Meat inspection problems have been plaguing the US for at least a century (see: The Jungle) but constant corner-cutting has resulted in more and more varied ways of spreading illness. Back in 2011, Mother Jones published an exposé of workers who became sick working on Hormel's pig brain machine.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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