Dear Editor,

I am submitting this letter in response to Dan Flynn’s earlier piece regarding pork inspection line speeds.

The federal government’s decision to put pork producers in charge of their own food safety inspections — while letting them set the line speeds that inspection workers must follow — is a recipe for disaster, despite what Flynn would have you believe.

Under a rule change that became final in December 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will put pork producers largely in charge of their own food safety inspections. Instead of requiring federal employees to conduct comprehensive examinations of each animal carcass, those inspections now will be handled by workers hired by the pork companies themselves.

The pork companies will be able to adjust the inspection line speeds whenever they like — potentially putting workers at higher risk of injury as they have less and less time to inspect each animal.

Make no mistake, this rule change isn’t about meeting higher food safety standards. It’s about moving product faster and cutting cost for the meat companies. About 40 percent of federal inspector jobs in hog slaughter plants will be lost as the work is outsourced to lower paid, less skilled company workers.

The new pork rule follows similar changes made to the poultry inspection process a few years ago. It’s all part of a larger assault on the hardworking federal employees who help guarantee that the food you eat is safe.

As the head of the union that represents more than 6,500 food inspectors nationwide, I happen to believe that the USDA’s only concerns should be the safety of our food and the safety of its employees. On both those counts, the agency gets a Grade F performance.

— Paula Schelling
President, American Federation of Government Employees Council 45

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