A bipartisan group of Congressmen are calling on the USDA to delay publishing its proposed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Model’s Project hog inspection rule over concerns that with fewer inspectors in plants and relying on company employees to take over various duties will lead to lower food safety.
The group of 60 members in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “While we strongly support modernizing our food safety system and making it more efficient, modernization should not occur at the expense of public health, worker safety or animal welfare. We are concerned that these new rules are being pushed by the industry to increase profits at the expense of public health.”
The members want assurances from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service there would not be process control shortcuts, increased fecal and other adulteration of meat products, higher incidences of microbial contamination and an increase in foodborne illness. The Congressional members raised additional concerns regarding the hog slaughter pilot program including.
- That the HIMP model does not demonstrate that it reduces contamination, and therefore rates of foodborne illnesses;
- That current evidence suggests that the hog HIMP model will undermine the integrity of food safety;
- That facilities are engaging in rapid processing speeds that result in thousands of debilitating injuries including cuts, laceration and musculoskeletal disorders; and
- That the rapid line speeds present one of the greatest risks of inhumane treatment of animals, as workers are often pressured to take violent shortcuts to maintain speed.
The letter was led by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Similar concerns were raised by these members after the USDA issued a similar rule for poultry slaughter. The HIMP program focuses more efforts on food safety, such as verifying pathogen reduction than the traditional organoleptic inspection system.