Earlier this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would postpone routine on-site inspections of facilities that manufacture food and other FDA-regulated products, citing concerns for staff well-being amid the COVID-19 crisis, Eater reports.
The FDA conducts routine inspections of facilities every few years depending on risk analysis. Suspending these inspections, Eater argues, could weaken an already strained system of food safety checks. The FDA regulates a whopping 77 percent of the U.S. food supply.
Although the FDA’s decision is in response to an unprecedented crisis, it follows several rollbacks under the current administration of measures meant to ensure the safety of our food system.
For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has bowed to the chicken lobby’s request for waivers allowing chicken slaughterhouses to kill up to 175 birds per minute—nearly three birds per second. The USDA also rolled back the line speed cap for pig slaughterhouses, eliminating the breakneck maximum of 1,106 animals per hour. Critics of these speeds argue that they increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Slashing oversight or regulation of our food system isn’t just bad for people; it also increases suffering for animals. Slaughtering these individuals at such high speeds raises risks of inhumane treatment through improper handling and stunning.
Mercy For Animals is fighting on behalf of these animals as part of two coalitions of groups suing the USDA over its decisions to increase chicken and pig slaughter-line speeds.