With a flurry of ag-gag laws seeking to silence undercover activists, the meat industry might have hoped that lurid headlines and exposes would become a thing of the past.
There's one problem with that plan, however. The people who work in many of these facilities are less than happy about conditions too. After all, animal abuse and worker abuse often goes hand-in-hand.
As part of their investigations into changing food inspection regulations, the Food Integrity Project and The Government Accountability Project have just released two affidavits from USDA inspectors detailing serious accusations of unsafe chemical use and resulting health impacts on plant workers and inspectors:
Inspectors saw an increase in chemical use when poultry processing plants switched from "offline processing" to "online processing" procedures. In offline processing, contaminated birds are brought away from the main processing line to be reprocessed for the removal of fecal matter and other imperfections. In online processing, contaminated carcasses remain on the processing line with the other birds, and all birds are sprayed with chemicals (such as peracetic acid) to clean them.
This increased chemical use was compounded, say the affidavits, by non-existant or inadequate ventilation and fans.
With doctors warning of negative health effects from chemicals used in poultry processing, and with inspectors and workers experiencing serious, ongoing health problems, this is just one of the reasons that activists are angry about plans to shift responsibility for inspections from government inspectors to the poultry processing companies themselves.