In a separate incident, a pigs head was found to have partially covered a drain, leading to bloody waste water filling the area. This and another blockage caused by a buildup of skin led to dirty water flooding other areas. Because of the plugged drains, an insanitary condition was created; the bloody water in the walkway could be splashed and carried throughout the kill floor after employees walked through the puddle, an inspector wrote.
In a different part of the factory, inspectors found a stainless steel handwash sink plugged and approximately one-quarter full of standing bloody water with pieces of fat and meat. Production employees use this sink to clean and sanitise their hands and gloves. This creates an insanitary condition.
In a statement, JBS, which owns Pilgrims and Swift Pork, said all of the violations recorded were immediately addressed and that consumers were never put at risk. The US meat and poultry sector is one of the most highly regulated industries in America, said Al Almanza, JBSs global head of food safety and quality assurance, and former head of FSIS for 39 years. Non-compliance reports are issued by USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] inspection personnel to document when an establishment has not met a specific regulatory requirement. However, the vast majority of non-compliance issues are addressed immediately and have no impact on food safety.
All of the documented incidents regarding JBS [Swift Pork] and Pilgrims were immediately addressed by our facilities. None of these incidents put anyone at risk or resulted in any adulterated product released into commerce. Food safety is achieved by implementing processes that consistently detect and correct issues before products are released into commerce. Our team at JBS and Pilgrims is committed to the highest food safety standards and we partner with USDA each and every day to ensure that consumers can enjoy safe and quality products with confidence.
Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses
The US has shockingly high levels of foodborne illness, according to a new analysis by UK pressure group Sustain. It says that annually, around 14.7% (48 million people) of the US population is estimated to suffer from an illness, compared to around 1.5% (1 million) in the UK. In the US, 128,000 are hospitalised, and 3,000 die each year of foodborne diseases.
One bug, salmonella, causes around 1m illnesses per year in the US, while in the UK the numbers of officially recorded incidents is relatively low, with just under 10,000 laboratory confirmed cases in 2016. However, unreported incidents could substantially increase those numbers. Salmonella takes hold on farms and is found in the guts of poultry and livestock: farm animals and birds can become contaminated with faeces containing the bacteria during transport to abattoirs, where slaughter and processing procedures can also spread it.
Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, said the figures underscored concerns about future US-UK trade deals: The US has already warned us that we will need to lower our food standards in exchange for a quick trade deal, but we need to fight this hard. They are desperate to sell us their chlorine-washed chicken, but we know chlorine and other unpalatable treatments can mask dirty meat, low hygiene standards and poor animal welfare, which the UK consumer will not stand for.
In recent years, the UK meat, dairy and egg industries have improved food safety; so we should all be alarmed about any trade deal that opens up our market to products that undermine this progress.