WASHINGTON – The Trump administration plans to let the pork industry take over inspections of meat from industrial-scale hog farms, including all tests for deadly pathogens that sicken half a million Americans a year, according to The Washington Post.
As Esquire columnist Charles P. Pierce asks, “What could go wrong?”
The proposal, part of Trump’s promise to roll back regulations on the pork industry and agribusiness in general, will cut the number of government food safety inspectors by roughly 40 percent, replacing them with plant employees, the Post reported.
Detecting contaminated pork and diseased hogs will largely fall to slaughter-line workers at the plants, and any training would be at the discretion of the owners of the factory farms, which are notorious for being some of the worst polluting operations in the ag industry. Those inspections are now handled by trained Department of Agriculture veterinarians. The proposal would also remove limits on how fast the slaughter lines can move.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million Americans get sick from food each year. CDC says the most common sources of fatal infections were meat and poultry contaminated with salmonella and listeria bacteria. Roughly half a million people each year get sick from tainted pork products, and more than 80 die.
“Turning food safety inspections over to hog farmers is one of the dumbest and most dangerous decisions the Trump administration has made – and that’s a long list,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Millions of Americans already fall sick each year from contaminated food even with government safety inspectors on the job. I shudder to think how many more will get sick or die if hog farm workers, not trained government veterinarians, are the last line of defense against a salmonella outbreak.”
A 2016 report by EWG and Waterkeeper Alliance documented the explosion of swine and poultry factory operations in North Carolina, which, after Iowa, produces the most pork in the U.S. Researchers from the two groups estimate more than 10 billion gallons of manure and urine are generated annually from pork operations in North Carolina alone, leaving tens of thousands of people who live near the farms susceptible to air and water quality contamination.
Scientific tests conducted in 2017 found abundant hog fecal matter, the main pathways for dangerous pathogens, on homes and lawns and in the air of private properties near big hog farms in the state.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.