This week, the pork industry announced it is facing pork slaughter and pork processing worker shortages due to school closures related to the coronavirus pandemic. In response, advocacy group Food & Water Action is calling on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to halt implementation of the controversial New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) which looks to privatize hog-slaughter inspection.
NSIS also removes caps on slaughter line speeds, making carcass inspection even more difficult. Pork plants have until March 30 to indicate intentions to switch to the new privatized inspection system.
In response, Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Action issued the following statement:
“Our country is in crisis right now, and our elected officials should be doing everything in their power to minimize the damage stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. As food production demands increase due to restaurant and bar closures, food safety measures are more important than ever.
“There are no assurances that the pork industry can provide adequate staffing coverage to implement the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS). NSIS already puts public health, worker safety and animal welfare at risk so that the pork industry can run faster lines and inspect itself. It would be a disaster to move forward with implementing this new system in the midst of a pandemic.
“We call on USDA to stop implementation of this controversial inspection system and urge that slaughter line speeds be reduced in all slaughter facilities – pork, poultry, and beef -- where there is inadequate USDA inspection and plant employee staffing.”
Food & Water Watch has filed a lawsuit challenging the implementation of NSIS on food safety grounds because the new inspection system turns over critical food safety tasks over to plant employees who do not have to be trained. Plant staffing shortages would further weaken food safety safeguards.
USDA has refused to disclose the names of plants that have expressed an interest thus far to opt into the new system.