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