Editorial: Plan to loosen federal inspection of pork is an outbreak waiting to happen


By the Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Apr 7, 2019


Once again, the Trump administration is letting the foxes guard the chickens — or in this case, the hogs. The administration plans to reduce the ranks of federal pork inspectors by 40 percent and let the industry replace government inspectors with its own employees.


America lately has seen the dangers of reduced regulation in the aircraft industry, the environmental sector and elsewhere. And now the White House wants to move on to the food supply. What could possibly go wrong?


Since Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel “The Jungle” graphically alerted the public that bad meat was getting into America’s food supply, the federal government has taken responsibility for ensuring the purity of food. The Meat Inspection Act, passed that year, authorized federal inspection of livestock throughout the slaughtering and packing process, to prevent the sale of unfit meat.


That system has stayed in place for more than a century with remarkable success in reducing once-common outbreaks of foodborne illnesses to the relative rarities they are today in the U.S.


But the pending change will shift much of that inspection responsibility to industry employees. Unlike government inspectors, whose duty is to scrutinize industry practices and guard public safety, those in-house inspectors will answer to companies that have a vested interest in minimizing scrutiny and getting as much of their product to market as quickly and cheaply as possible.


“All the power gets handed over to the plant,” one former USDA inspector who participated in a trial program of the new system told The Washington Post. “I saw the alleged inspections that were performed by plant workers; they weren’t inspections. They were supposed to meet or exceed USDA standards — I never saw that happen.”


Think about that next time you order bacon.


It’s part of the broader deregulation binge Republicans have been pushing since the 1980s, and which the current administration has embraced. Previous moves have included delegating some federal aircraft safety oversight to industry players like Boeing — which manufactured the passenger planes involved in two recent plane crashes.


The administration’s aggressive rollback...


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