By: Mike Moen, Public News Service
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A federal lawsuit was filed this week over recent changes to how safety inspections are handled at pork processing plants.
It follows a separate federal suit filed in Minnesota last fall.
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised how inspections are handled at slaughterhouses by essentially handing most of those duties over to the companies themselves.
Ryan Talbott, a staff attorney at Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit, says shifting that responsibility opens the door to food-borne illnesses.
“It’s safe to say that once you have the slaughter plant employees, who have no mandatory minimum training or education requirements, taking on the roles of trained federal inspectors — this is a recipe for disaster,” he states.
The USDA says the changes are intended to modernize the pork processing system. Many in the pork industry also support the changes, saying they will bring more efficiencies.
Last fall, several labor unions filed a federal lawsuit in Minnesota over provisions that remove maximum line speeds when bringing hogs to slaughter. That suit contends the changes compromise worker safety, as well as food safety.
Talbott says the threat to pork products sold in the U.S. would not be on a small scale. He says this could affect consumers in a big way.
“The government’s expecting several dozen pork slaughter plants to adopt these rules, which is probably going to cover more than 90% of pork that’s sold in commerce,” he states. “So, the effects are going to be felt nationally.”
The latest suit asks the court to dismiss the new rules. A hearing in the lawsuit filed in Minnesota is scheduled for later this month.