by Mario Parker
Donald Trump is known for his attacks against the Washington Post. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is getting in on the action.
In a highly unusual move for the farm agency, the USDA put out a statement blasting the newspaper over its April 3 story that said the administration plans to give more power to the pork industry over safety inspections.
“Shame on you, Washington Post,” the USDA said in the statement Monday. “This story earns you at least four Pinocchios.”
Read the Washington Post story, “Pork industry soon will have more power over meat inspections.”
While other parts of the Trump administration, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have issued statements in the past pushing back at media coverage, the USDA has typically been more staid. Meanwhile, the Washington Post, owned by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, has repeatedly taken fire from the president.
In the story, the Washington Post said under a proposed new inspection system, responsibilities for identifying diseased and contaminated pork would be shared with inspectors and plant employees and that training would be at the discretion of plant owners. Limits on production line speeds would also be eliminated, the newspaper said.
“It’s important to understand that under the proposal, establishment employees will not conduct inspections and they will not condemn animals,” the USDA said. “The Post’s decision to continue to parrot arguments that are devoid of factual and scientific evidence only serves to further the personal agenda of special interest groups that have nothing to do with ensuring food safety.”
The statement Monday was issued by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service unit. The arm “is made up of only career civil servants, we do not have any politically-appointed employees that work for FSIS,” Aaron Lavallee, deputy assistant administrator in the office of public affairs and consumer education, said in an email.
For the last two decades, with the government’s blessing, the Beardstown, Illinois, JBS factory and four other hog plants have operated with fewer inspectors with the slaughter line running as fast as companies like. USDA says flexible oversight would lead to better control of pathogens and safer working conditions. – Bloomberg
In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial, the editorial board writes that America has seen the dangers of reduced regulation in the aircraft industry and environmental sector. Now the White House wants to move on to the food supply. What could possibly go wrong? – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In Letters to the Editor, the director of science and technology for the National Pork Producers Council and the senior lobbyist for Food & Water Watch offer their opinions. – Washington Post