Washington, D.C. — Consumer Federation of America joins other consumer advocates, as well as labor, public health, and animal welfare organizations, in applauding the House Appropriations Committee for passing the DeLauro-Price Amendment. The Amendment puts a check on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dangerous proposed rule to “modernize” hog slaughter inspection. That rule would turn over inspection responsibilities to company employees, strip away speed limits on hog slaughter lines, allow slaughterhouses to define their own microbiological criteria for food safety performance, and usher in comprehensive reforms to longstanding inspection practices without a reliable means of evaluating their efficacy.
If the Amendment passes in the Senate, it will block funding to “finalize, issue, or implement” the proposed rule and require a full investigation by the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) “on the data used in support of the development and design of the swine slaughter inspection program.” The Amendment mandates that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service fully address and resolve the issues raised by the OIG before the funding hold can be lifted.
CFA had repeatedly warned that the data, analysis, and process used by the USDA to develop the hog slaughter rule was faulty and incomplete. “This congressional action was sorely needed to address the procedural and substantive flaws in this rulemaking,” said Thomas Gremillion, CFA Director of Food Policy. “For the sake of consumer safety, the Senate should sustain this important amendment.”
“Pork currently causes over 10% of Salmonella illnesses each year in the United States,” said Gremillion. “Yet the proposed rule failed to establish any reliable measures to compare slaughterhouses’ food safety performance under the new and old inspection systems. In particular, rather than updating Salmonella performance standards for pork, the agency chose to simply eliminate them. The rule also relied on a flawed risk assessment that was not peer-reviewed until after FSIS proposed its rule, in violation of federal guidelines, and when the risk assessment finally underwent peer review, three out of five reviewers indicated that the analysis was fatally flawed. Given the significant deficiencies in how USDA rolled out this rule, we have strong reason to believe that the OIG will send the agency back to the drawing board, and that consumers will be safer as a result.”