Do big businesses have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees? What about towards their customers? Or is the only reason big food businesses worry about the health and safety of their employees and their customers is because of government regulations? If given the choice, would food businesses go back to the days without food safety regulations, without adulteration or misbranding laws and let anything go as long as they make a profit? It deeply concerns me that the big food businesses would throw away all regulations if given the chance and leave us all at risk from foodborne illness. This is why I take food safety so seriously.
We saw something like this happening after the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1984 when dietary supplements manufacturers produced products without evidence of their efficacy and without really testing for active ingredients. Some dietary supplements were so dangerous that they were banned by the FDA because they killed people.
We’ve also seen the reactions of the CEOs of the meat slaughterhouses after they were required to close by their local health department due to the spread of COVID-19 infections within their facilities. Rather than slow the lines down, test every employee, split shifts, support employees taking sick leave, and install protective equipment; they pressured Trump into passing a Defense of America order making meat processing critical infrastructure.
Other ways we have seen food companies lack responsibility is in their refusal to follow animal welfare recommendations which are required by law in Europe. So instead of caring for farm animals properly using acceptable husbandry practices, the animals are given antibiotics and hormones. Apparently it is just too costly to look after farm animals in the US!
These companies have shown over and over again that their employees are replaceable and are as little value (or possibly less) than the meat that they are processing. This lack of respect concerns me because I think it also extends to the customer. Food safety is only as good as the regulations and the inspectors implementing them.
This is why we need a better, more resilient, sustainable and equitable food system. One in which employees are treated with respect and humanity and where animal welfare is an equal priority along making a profit. A profit without these is not an honest result. Here are three things you could do:
- Buy meat and poultry from a local source where you can check that the animals and workers are well cared for;
- Show in your company and personal values that worker and animal welfare are priorities;
- Develop policies around animal welfare, worker health and safety, and customer safety, including an excellent food safety plan as offered by the Food Industry Employment Program LLC. Click here NOW to get your plan setup or updated.
Now wash your damn hands!