USDA Accused Of Bullying Inspectors Who Reported Safety Violations

First the FAA makes their own inspectors cry in front of Congress and now the Associated Press says that the head of the federal inspectors’ union is alleging that the USDA told him to “drop the matter” when he reported food safety violations at slaughterhouses. When he refused, he was placed on “disciplinary investigative status.”

The head of the union that represents 6,000 federal food inspectors told a congressional committee Thursday that the Agriculture Department tried to intimidate him and other employees who reported violations of regulations, an allegation denied by the agency.

Union chief Stan Painter said that following a mad cow disease scare in 2003, he told superiors that new food safety regulations for slaughtered cattle were not being uniformly enforced. Painter said he was told to drop the matter, and when he didn’t, was grilled by department officials and then placed on disciplinary investigative status.

Painter said he was eventually exonerated, but the incident “has caused a chilling effect on others within my bargaining unit to come forward and stand up when agency management is wrong.” He said that supervisors tell workers to “let the system work” rather than cite slaughterhouses for violations.

Maybe we’re not getting enough rest at night, but isn’t having “inspectors” that “inspect” the slaughterhouses…

Well, um, isn’t that part of the system? The enforcement part? No?

The USDA’s spokesperson says they looked into Painter’s allegations and found no evidence to substantiate them.

The spokesperson also said that the recent (notorious) failure to uncover animal abuse was “not because of a lack of inspectors, adding that he believes the agency has enough to do the job effectively.” We’re not sure, however, whether that statement to the AP was accompanied by a Nancy Nord-style wink.

Union head claims USDA tried to intimidate employees
[AP]

Comments

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  1. Bladefist says:

    This is the problem w/ unions. They get away with murder

  2. bohemian says:

    The problem is that we have too many government agencies that have been allowed to get in bed with the companies they regulate. When you have people with clear conflicts of interest like many cases with the FDA where the officials had ties to the drug companies the whole system breaks down.

    Having higher ups or heads of government agencies working for the companies or having conflicts of interest such as financial or old industry ties they stop protecting the people.

    @Bladefist: Really? Do you even believe what your writing? The union isn’t the problem, THEY helped blow the whistle on this.

    I find is amazing that some people will blindly follow an idea even at their own peril. Tainted meat and lead laced toys, you can have all you want. Me, no thanks.

  3. Smitherd says:

    Since when did the USDA merge with the mafia?

  4. EyeHeartPie says:

    @Bladefist:

    Ummmm…did you read the article? The union workers were the ones being bullied into keeping quiet. It was the United States Department of Agriculture that was strong-arming the unionized inspectors into not reporting violations.

  5. Bladefist says:

    @EyeHeartPie: @bohemian:

    My bad. I did read the article, but I’ve only had 2 cups of coffee, I got the story twisted up. Sorry.

  6. spinachdip says:

    @EyeHeartPie: Why read the article when you can just repeat talking points?

    You see, being a mouth-breathing idiot is like working customer support – you don’t actually figure out what the issue is, but try to pick up on certain keywords and go with the script. For example, if you see the word “offensive”, you say something about “political correctness run amok!” If you see “regulation”, then you say something about “government interfering with our lives!”

    You save a lot of time when you stop trying to understand things. Bladefist, I salute your efficiency!

  7. Falconfire says:

    We have a similar issue going on in NJ when it comes to education and highest scoring districts, and they made it LEGAL.

    You see, if your Board of Education has a descending vote in NJ, your district automatically loses points that go toward funding.

    Yes thats right, the government CUTS FUNDING to school districts if people on your board feel that other people are doing something wrong, the WHOLE POINT of having a board of people.

    Even better, if your district reports it found corruption, you can also lose points toward funding, basically making it so that NO ONE will report corruption under fear they will lose funding.

    If they can fuck up education this bad, it doesn’t surprise me at all the USDA would fuck up keeping us safe too. The government doesnt want to look bad, and they will punish ANYONE who gets in their way.

  8. Sanveann says:

    That’s terrible, but not shocking. Anyone read “Fast Food Nation”? Lots of shocking info in there about slaughterhouse conditions. They’re so unsafe and pay so little that they basically can get only illegal immigrants to work there. In fact, both “FFN” and the NY Times reported that many meatpacking plants would send buses down to the border to pick up illegals looking for work.

    We’ve just started getting our meat from a local farmer. It’s pricier, but at least where the cow was raised and where it was processed (and by whom).

  9. azntg says:

    Yeah, I knew that USDA Inspected seal is just a token image that stands for nothing.

  10. Beerad says:

    Wait, you mean that a weak federal agency is being easily manipulated by a powerful lobbying group to ease up on oversight to the public’s detriment! I am SHOCKED and APPAL — uh, actually I’m not. This isn’t surprising in the least. Just very very sad.

  11. BugMeNot2 says:

    @bohemian
    Well said. In particular, I stopped trusting the USDA long ago. Until the Japanese and Oprah start importing and eating US beef again, count me out.

  12. elf6c says:

    The Bush Administration may create more vegetarians then PETA at this rate. Yeesh.

  13. ARP says:

    Let the market sort it out. Isn’t that what Bush says should happen? The market will regulate itsself. If you get botulism and die, you just shouldn’t buy that product anymore.

  14. ninjatales says:

    @Bladefist: A GOP-supporter who only reads the title before opening his mouth to blame the left-wing and/or unions? Surprise Surprise.

  15. lesspopmorefizz says:

    @ARP: Or haunt the slaughterhouse. Protesting from beyond the grave!

  16. ThomasD3 says:

    @Sanveann: Fast food nation was a fantastic book; I think about it regularly when I see meat :)

  17. trujunglist says:

    There’s shit in the meat.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    We need a dual-track for America’s food supply. One that’s overseen competently and another that’s sourced with no oversight whatsoever.
    Republicans and their spawn only get to eat from the latter channel. With no possibility of filing lawsuits to cover the medical costs that result.
    Win/Win!!

  19. strangeffect says:

    @Bladefist: points for fessing up.

  20. BigElectricCat says:

    My dad’s a professor of agriculture and has quite a few contacts in the meat (beef & pork) industry. He told me a couple of years ago that given all the recent cutbacks in the USDA’s inspection and enforcement division, that he wouldn’t be surprised to hear about the industry running the show sooner or later.

    Guess he was right. Your tax dollars at work, NOT. Thanks, President Bush.

  21. harlyridr says:

    I once worked for the USDA in Maine and the old boy network was hard at work. When I mentioned that a couple of Biologists were doing “not totally legal things” I was labeled as a disgruntled employee and had bad performance reviews. When HR sent an investigator to Maine, the powers that be all took 2 to 3 week vacations so they didn’t have to speak to internal affairs. Little did they know that the minute the inspector heard this he flew back to North Carolina and had their bosses call them personally and rescind their vacations. I no longer work for the USDA…

  22. mikelotus says:

    USDA has been in bed with industrial agriculture since i can remember. their history was to promote american agricultural.