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Tyson sues USDA over negligent pork inspections

Action resulted in $2.4 million in losses and expenses at Storm Lake, Iowa, facility.

Jacqui Fatka

May 16, 2019

2 Min Read
Tyson sues USDA over negligent pork inspections

Tyson Foods filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture accusing an inspector of falsifying inspections for more than 4,600 hogs. The action forced the company to destroy 8,000 carcasses and resulted in $2.4 million in losses and expenses.

In court documents filed May 14, Tyson stated that Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) inspector Dr. Yolanda Thompson signed off on ante-mortem inspections of 4,622 hogs in March 2018 at the company’s Storm Lake, Iowa, plant. Video footage later showed that Thompson never entered the plant and signed the inspection cards while sitting in her vehicle.

"Prior to the time that Dr. Thompson conducted the negligent inspection, other USDA and/or FSIS employees and inspectors were aware of deficiencies in the quality, scope and integrity of Dr. Thompson's inspection practices," Tyson claimed in the lawsuit.

Tyson’s suit said USDA and FSIS were aware of Thompson’s inspection practices as well as physical limitations and should not have assigned her to the pork processing plant.

The complaint also noted that Thompson had difficulty walking and that her normal inspection site was the smaller turkey processing plant.

"The United States should have recognized Thompson's unfitness to perform the inspections that were necessary for the protection of Tyson's property. However, the United States failed to so recognize, resulting in the destruction of approximately 8,000 hog carcasses, causing injury to Tyson," the company added.

The lawsuit said FSIS personnel did inform Tyson the following day that Thompson had not performed the inspections, but the uninspected carcasses had already been mixed with additional ones.

Tyson claimed a loss of $1.85 million for the destroyed carcasses, in addition to nearly $315,000 in cancelled sales, $213,000 from a reduction of normal processing activities while diverting resources to respond to the situation, $50,000 in freight and storage fees and $51,000 in overtime hours worked to resolve the situation.

In November, USDA denied Tyson's attempts to claim damages leading to the current lawsuit. The federal government has until June 5 to file a response to Tyson's complaint.

In a request for comment, FSIS public affairs specialist Buck McKay said FSIS is unable to comment on the pending lawsuit.

Tyson spokesperson Gary Mickelson also said, “We currently have no additional comment beyond what is included in the lawsuit.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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