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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Whistleblower Protections Equal Safer Food, Federal Workers Say

Food Integrity Campaign | September 13, 2010

Survey Results From FDA, USDA Workers Eye-Opening

(Washington, D.C.) –According to a new survey, scientists from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) overwhelmingly believe that if they, their coworkers, and food industry employees enjoyed solid whistleblower protections, food consumed in America would be safer to eat.

Earlier today, GAP coalition partner Union of Concerned Scientists released a survey regarding food safety oversight. The UCS survey was given to thousands of scientists and meat inspectors at the FDA and USDA – of which over 1,700 responded. Specifically, by a margin of 70 percent to 2 percent, survey respondents said that “establishing strong whistleblower protections for private or public employees who report problems affecting the food supply” would improve rather than worsen food safety.

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) works with many federal and corporate food safety whistleblowers to protect them from retaliation, and advocates for stronger whistleblower rights.

“These survey results are proof that federal employees believe some of our food is unsafe, but can’t act out to tell us,” said GAP Food Integrity Campaign Director Amanda Hitt. “Our clients make food integrity disclosures at great peril to their personal and professional lives. They deserve the chance to safely speak up on behalf of public health, but without the significant hurdles and backlash that current whistleblowers have to endure.”

The UCS studies confirm what numerous GAP clients have stated. GAP client Dr. Dean Wyatt, for example, is a Public Health Veterinarian for USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Dr. Wyatt discovered gruesome and distasteful violations of humane handling regulations – not at just one slaughterhouse, but two. Each time, Dr. Wyatt voiced concerns to his supervisors. However, FSIS officials continually chose to ignore shocking reports of inhumane treatment and safety violations. Instead, FSIS reprimanded him on several occasions for trying to hold the incompliant plants accountable, and subjected him to a slew of blatant retaliatory actions.

More on the UCS survey can be found in that organization’s press release.

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.