RELEASE: Nebraska Workers and Consumers at Risk with New Pork Rule

***For Immediate Release***
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Contact: Magdalena Cazarez
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853 Ext 119
Cell: (402) 504-0074
mcazarez@neappleseed.org

 

Nebraska Workers and Consumers at Risk with New Pork Rule

USDA finalizes rule removing federal food inspectors and limits on processing speeds

 

LINCOLN — Today, in a step backward toward the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized a controversial new pork rule, raising serious concerns for Nebraska’s workers, consumers, pork producers, and communities. 

 

Nebraska Appleseed has two main concerns on the rule:

  • The rule reduces the number of federal food safety inspectors in hog slaughter plants by 40% and allows companies to inspect their own product without any requirements for employee training in fecal contamination, bacteria, and disease. 
  • Workers in pork processing already suffer permanent, crippling injuries at alarming rates. The rule removes all limits on line speeds, intensifying harsh conditions without consideration for workers’ physical and mental health and the impact on Nebraska families and communities.

 

“Meatpacking and poultry workers help feed families across the country, yet must endure some of the most dangerous working conditions in the United States. Workers face an epidemic of severe and disabling injuries caused by punishing work speeds and grueling, repetitive motions,” said Darcy Tromanhauser, Nebraska Appleseed’s Director for the Immigrants & Communities Program.

 

“Despite the devastating effects this has on workers, their families, and communities, and despite serious food safety concerns, the administration has decided to move forward with this rule. Consumers should worry about the safety of their food and workers are going to get hurt.”

Nebraska Appleseed has talked to thousands of workers across our state on the harsh conditions they encounter on the floor:

  • “A knife came in one side of my arm and out the other. A coworker dropped his knife on the line and because it runs so fast, he wasn’t able to get it back. Since I’m on the next line, when I tried to grab the meat, the knife drove through my hand. I have had 2 surgeries. [Ever since] I’ve been frustrated because I can’t even comb my hair, [and] my niece helps me every day…I have no strength in this arm.”
  • “At the meatpacking plant, I feel like I’m in a war zone because there are so many injuries and wounded people.”
  • “Every day the line is faster with more work and fewer workers.”
  • “We can’t even go to the bathroom because they shout at us and humiliate us.”

 

Reducing the number of federal inspectors in pork plants creates food safety concerns and a higher risk for major outbreaks of salmonella, listeria, E. coli, and other food-borne bacteria. Under the new rule, there are no salmonella standards for pork. A lack of consumer confidence in pork also creates worrisome risk for Nebraska’s pork producers.

 

Nebraska Appleseed and Nebraska workers submitted public comments opposing this rule. Polling shows clear public opposition to the rule across party lines and including 70% of Midwesterners. Nebraska Appleseed together with Southern Poverty Law Center, Heartland Workers Center, and other worker centers across the country have long called for federal work speed protections for meat and poultry workers. This new pork rule goes in the opposite direction.

 

Every Nebraska worker deserves human dignity and safety on the job. Nebraskans contributing their skills and talents to our communities deserve to come home safe at the end of the day. Our federal government should maintain a basic food safety inspection system in this country and should protect workers who help feed American families across the U.S.

 

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