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Agency to cede oversight of meat safety to slaughterhouses

When Louisville residents go to the grocery store and buy meat, they can depend on the product to be free of contaminants and disease. But that was not always the way, as chronicled in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. While it was a work of fiction, the book described the disgusting filth and dangers present in America's meat-packing industry in the early years of the 20th century.

In the wake of what was essentially an expose, Congress created the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to oversee slaughterhouse conditions and ensure our food supply chain remained safe and unadulterated. But that all could change drastically.

Agency to allow industry self-policing

The current administration plans to make drastic changes in the production and oversight of the pork industry. The slaughterhouses will speed up their assembly lines. At the same time, the government plans to curtail by 40% the number of food safety inspectors with oversight of the pork slaughterhouses.

Fewer employees with no required training will replace these government inspectors. Companies will be free to create their own programs to test for micro-organisms, meaning that each pork slaughterhouse will likely have different standards.

What that could mean for consumers

Less oversight of the pork industry does not bode well. It is conceivable that in the very near future Kentucky consumers could purchase food products that are contaminated with feces or parasites.

In one pilot program, five self-policing plants with faster line speeds were found to have an uptick in the number of regulatory violations.

Consumers have recourse for tainted goods

If you purchase a tainted food product that sickens you, whether it is a result of these changes or not, you can hold the manufacturer or retailer liable for your injuries and damages.

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