WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg
Nov. 20, 2013 by Rena Steinzor

What's for Thanksgiving? Hopefully not more crippling pain for poultry workers! Learn more at upcoming webinar

When we all sit down for Thanksgiving dinner next week, we hope that the food we are feeding our families is wholesome and that the workers who produce it are safe.  Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ever the mindless booster of corporate profits, that turkey at the center of the table already disappoints both expectations, and if USDA has its way, matters are about to get much worse.  Hiding behind disingenuous promises to “modernize” the food safety system, USDA has decided to pull federal food inspectors off the line at poultry processing plants across the nation.  No new preventative measures to ensure that poultry is free of salmonella would happen.  And already crowded, bloody, stinking lines would speed up dramatically—to as many as 175 birds per minute, or three birds/second. Workers who suffer grave ergonomic injuries from the repetitive motions of hanging, cutting, and packing the birds would endure conditions that are two or three times worse than the status quo.  

The consequences of USDA’s de-regulatory scheme are well documented. Back in 2001, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found significant food safety concerns in pilot plants authorized to test the new system and …

Nov. 18, 2013 by Lisa Heinzerling
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced its tentative determination that most of the trans fatty acids in our diets – specifically, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) – are not “generally recognized as safe” within the meaning of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and thus must be regulated as food additives. If the FDA finalizes this determination, then food manufacturers would need to obtain the approval of the FDA before selling PHOs in any food or as food ingredients. Approval would then depend, in turn, on a determination by the FDA that PHOs were safe after all. In this way, a final determination by the FDA that PHOs are not “generally recognized as safe” would effectively amount to a ban on their use in food.

The FDA’s proposed finding is a huge deal for public health. The agency estimates that eliminating PHOs from the food supply could prevent …

Nov. 14, 2013 by Michael Patoka
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor Lisa Heinzerling, Tom McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, and I submitted comments to the FDA on two food safety rules—one on raw produce, and one on preventive controls for human food (which applies to food manufacturers and processors).

In separate blogs posted today, we address issues of regulatory design and how the costs of both these rules would be significantly smaller than suggested in the FDA’s economic analyses. Here, we explain why these rules offer much greater benefits than those presented in the agency’s analyses. (The analyses for both rules essentially rely on the same benefits methodology.) 

The FDA estimates that the produce rule would prevent about 1.75 million foodborne illnesses, representing an annual benefit to society of $1.04 billion. For the preventive controls rule, the FDA calculates the annual burden of illnesses attributed to processed foods—nearly one …

Nov. 14, 2013 by Lisa Heinzerling
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

One of the healthiest things a person can do is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Unless they’re contaminated with dangerous pathogens, that is. Contaminated produce has been responsible for an alarming number of deaths and illnesses in recent years, from Listeria-tainted cantaloupes that killed up to 43 people in 2011 to a Cyclospora outbreak linked to salad mix and cilantro that sickened 631 people in 25 states this past summer. 

For this reason, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set standards to ensure the safety of the fruits and vegetables in our food supply.   The FDA’s proposed rule on produce safety would address some of the most likely sources of contamination on farms, including tools and equipment, water used in agricultural activities, and worker health and hygiene. At the Center for Progressive Reform we …

Oct. 25, 2013 by Michael Patoka
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Last Friday, the FDA posted the revisions the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) made to two food safety rules drafted by the agency two years ago. The proposed rules were issued under the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which Congress passed in the wake of widespread food safety disasters.

As we’ve mentioned in this space before, OIRA is the regulatory review body within the White House that frequently holds onto agency rules for longer than the 120-day limit set by Executive Order 12866, often mangling and weakening the protections developed by agencies at the behest of regulated industries. For one of these rules, on the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), OIRA didn’t loosen its grip for a year and eight months, giving it plenty of time to tinker around with the FDA’s proposal behind closed doors.

According to a memo …

Oct. 17, 2013 by Rena Steinzor
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Salmonella outbreak reveals we need more, not fewer, cops on the food safety beat. 

Some 317 victims of salmonella poisoning from Foster Farms chicken sold in 20 states have learned firsthand why we need government.   Who knows how much faster the threat would have been contained if Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experts had been walking their usual beat, coordinating state investigators and working frantically to discover the origins of the virulent strain of salmonella that has already hospitalized 42 percent of the 317 victims?  

Instead, the investigators were sent home on furlough, and only recalled to work after the scandal hit the media.  

CDC investigators are a vital link in the chain of public protection because they are the people who “trace back” illness to its source. Obviously, knowing someone has salmonella poisoning is not enough: we also need to know which food, from what company …

Sept. 4, 2013 by Rena Steinzor
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

We’ve often written in this space about the Obama Administration’s very bad idea to take federal inspectors of the line at poultry processing plants, leaving the discovery of blood, guts, and feathers on the carcasses to overworked and underpaid line workers forced to process as many as 70 birds per minute at the average plant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the architect of this proposal to “modernize” the food safety system without requiring a single additional test to make sure the birds are not infested with salmonella, campylobacter, and other bad bugs. Confirming the rule’s primary role as a windfall for the poultry industry, USDA’s initial cost-benefit analysis indicated that it would save companies like Holly Farm, Tyson’s, and Perdue $250 million annually. That windfall is attributable to the fact that under the proposal, the line speed will at …

Aug. 27, 2013 by Michael Patoka
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

In January of this year, the Food & Drug Administration proposed a rule on produce safety, as required by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The rule would establish comprehensive standards designed to prevent foodborne illnesses linked to fruits, vegetables, and nuts—like the ongoing Cyclospora outbreak that has sickened 630 people so far, or the 159 cases of Hepatitis A caused by imported pomegranate seeds.

Sofie Miller and Cassidy West, two analysts from the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center (RSC) recently filed a comment on the FDA’s proposal, recommending a number of changes that would leave gaping holes in the rule’s protections. (A little background: the RSC was founded in 2009 with an initial grant from the right-leaning, anti-regulation Searle Freedom Trust, although that fact is no longer disclosed on their website, nor do the commenters explain which—if any—stakeholders they …

Aug. 13, 2013 by Celeste Monforton
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

More than 400 inspectors with the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) worked, on average, more than 120 hours each two-week pay period.    Those were the findings of the agency’s Inspector General in an report issued late last month.  Their investigation covered FY 2012, and included field work conducted from November 2012 through February 2013.

FSIS inspectors are assigned to more than 6,000 meat, poultry and egg processing plants in the U.S.  They are responsible for ensuring that the product sold by companies to consumers is safe and wholesome.  These firms process tens of billions of red meat and poultry annually.  With some USDA inspectors working many hours of overtime—not just a couple hours per week, but an average of 20 extra hours each week—can their senses stay sharp and can they do their jobs effectively?

The IG mentioned that overworked …

July 23, 2013 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Tomorrow, the new OIRA Administrator, Howard Shelanski, will testify before the House Small Business Committee on the results of the government-wide “look-back” at existing regulations. It will be an opportunity for the Committee’s Republicans to continue their assault on government programs that keep our food safe, air and water clean, and highways fit for travel. Shelanski could follow in his predecessor’s footsteps by trying to assuage the Republicans’ fears with glowing statistics about the allegedly huge savings that are expected to flow from revising some old regulations, or he could be more supportive of his fellow public servants and highlight the myriad programs that are working just fine and don’t need to be rolled back.

Food safety and occupational health advocates are hoping Shelanski will have an opportunity to give an update on a piece of the look-back program that falls somewhere between the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 2, 2021

To Protect Workers and Consumers, Congress Must End Forced Arbitration

March 26, 2021

Women's History Month Q&A with Board Member Laurie Ristino

March 19, 2021

Women's History Month Q&A with Member Scholar Sarah Krakoff

March 12, 2021

Women’s History Month Q&A with Board Member Gilonne d’Origny

Feb. 18, 2021

I'm Joining CPR to Help Strengthen Our Democracy and Advance Justice and Equity

Jan. 25, 2021

The Controversial Congressional Review Act

Jan. 4, 2021

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories to Look Out for in 2021 -- Part II