In this file:
· USDA report flags concern with worker safety data in new swine inspection system
… FSIS stated that the worker safety analysis was not used as a basis for the NSIS rulemaking, and the agency feels the inspector general has placed distorted emphasis on minor omissions...
· USDA used questionable worker safety data in drafting pork inspection rules, inspector general says
… The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not evaluate the accuracy of worker safety data it used to make its case for a new hog inspection system that allows plants to run processing lines at unlimited speeds, the Office of Inspector General has concluded…
· Report flags update of hog inspections
USDA data review found to be flawed
USDA report flags concern with worker safety data in new swine inspection system
via KTIC (NE) - June 27, 2020
On Thursday, USDA’s Inspector General issued a report on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service’s (FSIS) New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), which went into effect in October 2019. The report concluded that FSIS didn’t fully disclose sources for its analysis on how the rule would affect worker safety.
NSIS is a voluntary program that is designed to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process and to provide more flexibility for adopting new food-safety technologies. In its response, FSIS stated that the worker safety analysis was not used as a basis for the NSIS rulemaking, and the agency feels the inspector general has placed distorted emphasis on minor omissions...
USDA used questionable worker safety data in drafting pork inspection rules, inspector general says
By Kimberly Kindy, The Washington Post
June 25, 2020
The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not evaluate the accuracy of worker safety data it used to make its case for a new hog inspection system that allows plants to run processing lines at unlimited speeds, the Office of Inspector General has concluded.
The report, which was released Wednesday, also found that USDA was not transparent about the raw data it used in its worker safety analysis, making it impossible for outside experts to evaluate the agency’s conclusions.
The new system, which was finalized in October, shifts many food-safety tasks from federal inspectors to pork industry employees and reduces the number of USDA inspectors on slaughter lines in some plants by 40 percent, records show.
Prompted by the Inspector General report, a nonprofit group opposed to the new system said it will ask a judge to set aside the rule that created it.
When USDA proposed the new rule, which is voluntary for plants, it concluded injury rates for workers would likely be lower in the plants using the new system.
Worker safety advocates challenged these conclusions. They said workers would be working at a faster pace as they slaughtered hogs and then performed the intricate and repetitive work of cutting them into chops, hams and loins.
Illness rates for people who work in meatpacking plants — including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis — are 16 times higher than the average for all other industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Inspector General said that during the public comment period, USDA provided an analysis on worker safety based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration records it did not provide to the public. And the Inspector General “determined that [USDA] did not compare the OSHA data to any corroborating evidence to verify the reliability of these data used.”
USDA also “neither ensured that the data in the proposed rule were presented in an accurate manner nor disclosed all known limitations of the data,” the 36-page report said.
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said in an email that the Inspector General misapplied information to a preliminary analysis that was not made in support of its proposal. “Further, the OIG findings place an exaggerated emphasis on minor errors made in the presentation of the analysis – errors already corrected.”
Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group, filed a lawsuit...
Report flags update of hog inspections
USDA data review found to be flawed
by Nathan Owens, Arkansas Democrat Gazette
June 26, 2020
The U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to evaluate the accuracy of worker-safety data it used to support a new hog inspection system that allows processing plants to run at faster speeds, the Office of Inspector General has said.
The 36-page report, which was released Wednesday, also found that the USDA was not transparent with the raw data used in its safety analysis, making it difficult for outside experts to evaluate the agency's conclusions.
The new system, optional for meatpackers and modeled after a similar poultry inspection program, shifts many tasks away from federal inspectors to pork industry employees and reduces the number of USDA inspectors in some plants by 40%, The Washington Post reported. It also eliminated processing-line speed caps, which data shows as having a direct impact on worker safety and food quality.
Worker advocates last year sued the USDA over the program's final rule, published in October, for failing to consider the line speed and food-quality risks that allegedly violate the Administrative Protection Act. Litigation is ongoing.
Attorney Adam Pulver of Public Citizen said the "USDA's proposed rule was not adequately vetted or shared with the public."
The agency had thousands of comments on the proposed rule two years ago, including requests for a worker-safety analysis, which was not published until after the comment period closed. Upon review of the analysis, researchers from Texas State University concluded that it "was impossible ... to draw any statistically valid conclusion about worker injury rate differences" between traditional processing plants and those operating with faster line speeds.
Tyson, Smithfield and other meatpacking companies have supported the final rule, which reduces regulatory burdens on the industry and allows them to use their own employees to handle certain inspection duties traditionally conducted by government workers.
"[The USDA] is always looking to modernize and enhance our processes," a federal spokesman said. The agency established a new poultry inspection system that also waived line speed maximums a few years ago. Data shows 140 plants have converted and seven have converted to the new hog system.
The Office of the Inspector General agreed last summer to review the USDA's rule-making process for the proposed swine slaughter rule after 17 members of Congress expressed concerns about reports that the agency used "flawed worker safety data."