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Inspector General: Agriculture Department Used Unreliable Data, Hid Data from Public to Eliminate Maximum Line Speed in Meatpacking Plants

Statement of Adam Pulver, Attorney, Public Citizen Litigation Group

Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Inspector General released its report today on whether the worker safety analysis referenced in the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) “Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection” rulemaking complied with applicable rulemaking requirements. The inspector general concluded that “FSIS did not fully disclose its data sources in its worker safety analysis,” did not adhere to USDA’s own data presentation and transparency analysis, and failed to ensure the reliability of its worker safety data. Public Citizen represents workers at several swine slaughter plants in ongoing litigation challenging the lawfulness of the USDA’s rule.

The inspector general confirmed what worker and consumer advocates have been stating for more than a year: In its rush to deregulate, the USDA failed to meaningfully consider the impacts of eliminating line speed maximums for swine slaughter facilities on workers.

The report also makes clear that the USDA used unreliable data and failed to share data with members of the public in order to hide the data’s flaws from scrutiny.

As peer-reviewed studies show, increasing line speeds increases injuries to meatpacking workers. In addition to the irrational reasoning displayed in the USDA rule, the inspector general’s report provides an additional reason why the rule eliminating the maximum line speeds cannot stand.