Is USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack so desperate to push his poultry inspection plan forward that he'll try to find evidence supporting it where there is none?
Many poultry industry whistleblowers have told FIC that the USDA's plan, including the increase of already-too-fast line speeds at poultry processing plants, is a threat to public and worker health and safety. But Secretary Vilsack won't listen to the concerns of the actual workers who will be impacted by the faster line speeds. He also won't listen to hundreds of thousands of people who've petitioned the agency to drop the plan.
What about research findings requested by the USDA itself? Turns out he's still not really listening...
Last month in a blog post, USDA Administrator Al Almanza suggested that a study done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a research arm of the CDC, was proof that increasing line speeds was not a threat to worker health. But this week the CDC responded with an emphatic challenge to USDA's "misinterpretations."
The CDC took issue with three USDA assertions:
- that slowing line speeds was not among NIOSH's recommendations (when its recommendations did involve tackling the frequency of repetitive and forceful movements, which are affected by line speed);
- that NIOSH found that increasing line speed was not a significant factor in worker safety (when the NIOSH study draws no such conclusion); and
- that the study, which was done at a South Carolina plant, could be applied industry-wide (when NIOSH said it could not be representative of other poultry plants).
The CDC's statement is further confirmation that the USDA and Sec. Vilsack have their eyes and ears closed to the many voices against their plan. They're missing the bigger picture of problems while they focus on saving money and handing oversight responsibilities over to the industry.
This poultry plan is flawed and whistleblowers have been sounding the alarm for years. Mr. Vilsack, do you hear us now?
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.