As Upton Sinclair tosses and turns in his grave, we’re seeing his warnings about the meat packing industry play out in modern times. Beyond the already questionable processes of animal slaughter occurring, many serious health violations are coming to light as a result of a USDA program currently under review.

The program was first implemented in 2003, and allowed for the number of food inspectors on plant processing lines to be cut from seven to just four. It also condoned increasing the speed of those lines in five plants in particular. Among these five plants, three fall among the ten worst violators of food safety out of 616 plants nationwide between 2008 and 2011, reports Bloomberg.

Philip Derfler, deputy administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, reports that the program will be evaluated by March 2014 to decide if it will be more broadly implemented, regardless of the violations already observed in program plants.

Hormel, associated with multiple program test plants, says that food and employee safety standards have not gone down from the program—but you can decide for yourself after reading these food safety findings:

  • Inspectors at the five test plants found “hog carcasses bound for processing with lesions from tuberculosis, septic arthritis (with bloody fluid pouring from joints), and fecal smears.”
  • Last year, a line worker had one of his hands inside the carcass when the faster-moving line saw cut through the animal and four of the man’s fingers.
  • One plant in Fremont, NE, received 39 repeat violations for “yellowish colored residue” and a layer of fat and flesh found inside storage vats.
  • At Quality Pork Processors in Minnesota, an inspector reported a “bright green” smear of fecal matter just inches from a hanging cut of meat.
  • A QPP employee was caught “harvesting uteri that had been stamped out for fecal contamination” and placing them in a bucket for edible parts.
  • Inspectors also found that a compressed air system—used to liquefy brains, intended to be sold in South Korea as a stir-fry thickenerwas actually depositing traces of brain matter into the air.
  • And perhaps scariest of all: Derfler claims that, “There is no less oversight or supervision in these plants than there is in any other plant….In a lot of ways, we’re providing a higher level of coverage and inspection in these plants than we are in other plants.”

[via Businessweek]

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