For Immediate Release
GAP Whistleblowers Available to Speak on Food Safety Concerns at Largest Hormel Pork Plant
Austin, MN - In light of newly released undercover video footage taken at a Hormel plant, two former USDA inspectors have come forward to speak about the food safety issues they have witnessed at Hormel's largest high-speed processing plant. The whistleblowers each originally submitted affidavits (one anonymously) about their concerns to the Government Accountability Project (GAP) in January, but they are now willing to come forward.
The undercover video (filmed by animal welfare group Compassion Over Killing) highlights concerns about the treatment of pigs and the impacts of fast line speeds at the facility: Hormel’s headquarters in Austin, Minnesota known as QPP (Quality Pork Processors, Inc.).
This same facility is where two inspectors, recently retired, also witnessed disturbing conditions that threaten public health, including line speeds moving so fast that it’s nearly impossible to detect contamination such as abscesses, lesions, fecal matter, and other defects that may render an animal unsafe or unwholesome.
QPP is one of five pork plants participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's high-speed hog inspection pilot program. Under this controversial program, processing line speeds are moving at a rate 20 percent faster than at conventional plants. That means 1300 hogs are processed per hour, leaving inspectors with only three seconds to view each 250-pound hog carcass for signs of disease and contamination. The inspector whistleblowers warn against expanding the pilot program nationwide.
Director of GAP's Food Integrity Campaign, Amanda Hitt, stated:
"Inspectors have told us what’s been happening in this Hormel plant. It’s not surprising that where food safety concerns appear, other areas of concern like animal welfare and worker safety arise as well. People who love their bacon and Spam should know what’s really going on at the source. Hopefully these whistleblowers’ concerns will move the public to action."
In addition to the problematic line speeds, inspectors have raised other concerns with the high-speed inspection model, including:
- Plant employees take over the duties of government inspectors but cannot safely report food safety problems or stop the lines without fear of retaliation. While federal employees (including at USDA) have whistleblower protections and can speak on behalf of the plant workers, Hormel employees are in the private sector and have inadequate legal safeguards.
- Company employees lack adequate training and often fail to identify signs of defects and contamination that could result in foodborne illness or unwholesome products. Compared to plants operating under traditional inspection, inspectors in pilot plants report a higher level of "zero-tolerance food safety hazards."
- USDA inspectors are only allowed to conduct inspections on a small sample of hogs. Samples in these plants are not representative, and don’t reflect true pathogen risk.
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign and The Other 98% have launched an interactive website that takes people through the pork supply chain and illustrates the negative impact of Hormel’s practices on the environment, animal welfare, public health, and worker safety. Learn more and take action at WTFHormel.com. For all media requests and interviews with whistleblowers, see contact information below.
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The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.