Protecting Food. Empowering Whistleblowers.

Food Integrity Campaign Blog

New Food Safety Bill Empowers Meat Industry Workers to Protect Food Supply

Food Integrity Campaign | September 12, 2013

(Washington, DC) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) welcomes the comprehensive whistleblower protections included in the Safe Meat and Poultry Act of 2013, introduced today by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The bill provides gold standard whistleblower protections for corporate meat and poultry workers who report food violations enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In spite of recent attempts to gag whistleblowers, this groundbreaking legislation allows historically marginalized meat and poultry workers to safely speak up on behalf of consumers.

GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign Director Amanda Hitt commented:

Finally, meat and poultry workers may have the same whistleblower protections that their FDA counterparts enjoy. The whistleblower provision will enhance food safety by giving meat and poultry industry employees the legal protection to come forward with concerns before outbreaks take place. Senator Gillibrand should be commended for standing up for public health and the worker’s right to tell.

GAP hears from countless meat and poultry industry whistleblowers who desperately want to expose threats to public health and other USDA violations, but lack the protections needed to safeguard against retaliation. This bill covers any employee, officer, or contractor who refuses to violate the USDA safety regulations, or provides evidence of such violations to proper authorities – including supervisors or members of Congress.

The introduction of this legislation comes more than two years after the enactment of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, which secured comparable whistleblower protections for corporate workers reporting FDA violations. In 2012, federal employees overseeing meat and poultry, such as USDA inspectors and veterinarians, gained whistleblower protections through the passing of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), but the legislation excluded corporate meat and poultry workers. Sen. Gillibrand’s Safe Meat and Poultry Act would extend rights to those corporate workers employed at private USDA-regulated companies, finally addressing a key group of would-be whistleblowers in the food system who are still without adequate protections.

GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented:

The USDA has long recognized that whistleblower retaliation is a threat to food safety. This legislation removes that threat by incorporating best practice whistleblower rights. The meat and poultry industry is one of the last in the private sector where employers still can fire workers for defending the rule of law on the job. This reform is long overdue.

 

Contact: Sarah Damian, New Media Associate
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 130
Email: sarahd@whistleblower.org

Contact: Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 159
Email: amandah@whistleblower.org

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

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