USDA Whistleblower Comes Forward Amidst GAO Reports

By Nikhil Swaminathan, 10 March, 2010, No Comment

Last week, an 18-year employee of the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, stepped in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to describe malpractices he saw during his tenure. Dean Wyatt reported seeing pigs inhumanely slaughtered in an Oklahoma plant, as well as calves being mistreated in Vermont. His objections in both instances went unheeded, and, on at least one occasion, the USDA forced him to endure retraining sessions. Wyatt wasn’t taken seriously until the Humane Society of the United States released a graphic video of calves being slaughtered. (See below NSFW.)

As pointed out by the Washington Post, his testimony dovetails with two Government Accountability Office reports: one points out weaknesses in the USDA’s oversight of humane slaughtering methods, the other makes some general suggestions on improvements for better enforcement. (Example: “According to GAO’s survey, FSIS’s training may be insufficient. For example, inspectors at half of the plants did not correctly answer basic facts about signs of sensibility.”)

From Food Safety News comes an exchange from the House Oversight Committee hearing that highlights why we should be concerned with humane slaughtering:

“Is there a connection, in your professional opinion, between humane handing and the safety of food which people consume?” subcommittee chairman [Dennis] Kucinich [D-OH] asked Jerold Mande, deputy under secretary for food safety at FSIS.  “Would you eat meat where the calves were treated like that? Would you consume those products?  Isn’t at some point this a health issue?”

Mande indicated he does believe there is a link between humane treatment and safety. “I think when companies violate the humane slaughter act it’s a demonstration that they don’t have control over their processes,” he told the committee.  “It raises a question on how they can control their food safety processes.”

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