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Members of Congress Call on the USDA to Delay Proposed Hog Inspection Rule

January 19, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC (January 19, 2016) Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Louise Slaughter (NY-25) led a bipartisan group of 60 Members of Congress to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to delay publishing a proposed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Models Project’s (HIMP) hog inspection rule. If it were to be implemented, the rule would replace current inspection procedures with a system that undermines food safety, worker safety, and animal welfare.

“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, led by Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (CT-04) and Louise Slaughter (NY-25), wrote to USDA Secretary Vilsack. “Due to these concerns, we urge FSIS to delay publishing a proposed rule until the agency has thoroughly addressed the hog HIMP inspection model’s impact on the public, workers, and animals.”

“Before expanding the HIMP program to hog slaughter facilities across the country, FSIS should provide some assurance that removing government inspectors from these facilities, and relying on company employees to take over many of their duties, would not lead to process control shortcuts, increased fecal and other adulteration of meat products, higher incidences of microbial contamination, and ultimately, a rise in foodborne illness. Thus far it has not provided such assurance,” the letter continues.

Additional concerns raised by the Members regarding the hog slaughter pilot program include:

  • 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, lacerations, 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.

Any proposed rule is expected to be largely based on the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP). The Government Accountability Office raised serious questions about whether HIMP data being used by FSIS supports USDA’s claims of improved food safety benefits, further calling the wisdom of this this approach into question.

The full letter is available here.