Protecting Food. Empowering Whistleblowers.

Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Daily Mail: Toenails, hair and fecal matter are finding their way into America’s pork according to USDA whistleblowers

February 5, 2015


Toenails, hair and fecal matter are finding their way into Americans’ pork under new, faster slaughterhouse regulations.

Whistleblowers from inside the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have spoken out against a recent pilot program, saying they let harmful materials be passed on to consumers.

They claim that fewer inspectors and higher speeds mean that abscesses, lesions, cystic kidneys and bladder stems are also being put into meat by companies such as Hormel.

‘It’s not whether or not people are going to eat sh** — they are. It’s just how much,’ one meat inspector said about the new HIMP regulations, according to documents released by the Government Accountability Project.

The HIMP program, which stands for Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points Inspection Models Project, replaces government inspectors with slaughterhouse employees who check meat for contamination with oversight from USDA officials.

It has been run as a pilot program in five slaughterhouses since the late 1990s and cut the number of government inspectors by about half in each plant.

The changes are thought to increase the line speed of the meat factories from 1,100 to 1,300 hogs killed per hour, making it near impossible to check each pig carcass.

Three of the five plants have numerous violations for health and safety issues, according to the Washington Post.

Government inspectors, four of whom filed affidavits with the Government Accountability Project, said that there recommendations about safety were ignored by plant officials as well as their USDA higher-ups, who sided with the meat companies.

One affidavit from a current USDA inspector said that more than 20 per cent of the pigs going through the killing process are contaminated (file photo)

‘It seems like the USDA is doing all it can to make sure the HIMP program succeeds in this plant, even if it means betraying consumers by hiding the truth about their food,’ an inspector said.

Government inspectors are protected by federal whistleblower laws.

Joe Ferguson, a recently retired inspector who worked checking meat for 23 years, points out that Hormel owns three of the five plants currently running the new system and former Undersecretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano is on its board.

He said that food safety bureaucrats ‘are in bed with’ the industry.

One affidavit says that more than 20 per cent of the pigs going through the killing process are contaminated with some sort of undesirable material.

Another says that plant employees now tasked with checking for contamination are afraid to shut down production for fear of losing their jobs.

‘Personally, I will not eat any products that bear the name of the company for which this meat is produced. I don’t think that it is wholesome or safe to consume,’ Mr Ferguson said.

Critics of the new HIMP pork inspection system warn that unwanted materials on the pig carcasses can lead to contamination in consumers’ meat, which has been known to lead to bacterial infections

The inspection changes mirror the new rules for poultry production, which were approved despite similar outcry and whistleblowing over food safety issues.

Under the poultry system, one inspector was responsible for checking 10,000 birds per hour.

USDA officials released an evaluation of the pork HIMP plan in November and said that the five factories in the program are performing just as well as those that have not adopted it.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service says that the new process is more efficient, though a spokesman said that the agency is not sure if it will expand the program.

Contaminated pork is commonly associated with food poisoning bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, as well as the trichinosis parasite.