U.S. Meat and Poultry Food Safety Violations Sparks Concern in the U.S. and U.K.
March 12, 2018
Discoveries made in a joint investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian have raised concerns in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. in light of U.S. trade negotiations. As part of the investigation, unpublished documents related to meat plants across the U.S. were obtained and implicated a number of hygiene failings and incidents. The data in the reports was not fully comprehensive, as there are approximately 6,000 U.S. plants inspected by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, but nevertheless caused concern with campaigners in both the U.S. and the U.K. According to the reports, all of the reported incidents resulted in immediate action, however, interviews conducted with hygiene inspectors acknowledged that pressures on plants to speed up production inevitably lead to breaches that are not caught.
JBS, the owner of Pilgrim's Pride and Swift Pork—two large U.S. plants identified in the documents—issued a statement also assuring that all of the recorded violations were "immediately addressed" and no consumers were put at risk. JBS's global head of food safety and quality assurance also noted that meat and poultry in the U.S. "is one of the most highly regulated industries in America."
Despite the reports and assurances that the vast majority of non-compliance issues are addressed immediately and have no impact on consumers, the U.S. meat industry is a source of worry for the U.K., where food regulation is stricter than that in the U.S. The vast difference in number of food borne illness in the U.S. versus the U.K. bolsters those concerns. A recent U.K. analysis conducted by Sustain indicates that approximately 48 million people of the U.S. population suffers food borne illness annually, compared to approximately 1 million in the U.K. According to Sustain's chief executive, the U.S. has "warned" that the U.K. will need to lower its food standards for a trade deal to get done quickly.
For more information, see: Andrew Wasley, The Guardian, "Dirty Meat: Shocking Hygiene Failings Discovered in US Pig and Chicken Plants," Feb. 21, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/animals-farmed/2018/feb/21/dirty-meat-shocking-hygiene-failings-discovered-in-us-pig-and-chicken-plants