Food integrity concerns regarding USDA's proposal to streamline poultry inspection under the HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) – which would increase production line speeds and reduce government oversight – have been raised by consumer advocates and whistleblowers alike (including anonymous federal inspectors). Another significant, but often-overlooked, issue is the impact these proposed changes would have on the health and safety of the plant workers.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, pointed out in a recent report that injuries and illnesses among poultry workers (a disproportionately large share of which are Latino) are very common but usually go unreported. Highlighting the obstacles experienced by many Latino workers throughout the food industry, NCLR explains why their voices are routinely unheard:

Lack of job security, language barriers, immigration status, and the absence of a union are all factors that prevent many workers from raising concerns with supervisors or inspectors. Latino poultry workers tend to face multiple barriers, since many of them are immigrants who may have limited English proficiency or insecure immigration status.

Raising a complaint about hazardous conditions or taking a break to care for an injury makes workers more vulnerable to retaliation by their supervisors. How can poultry workers blow the whistle on food contamination if they can't even speak up to ensure their own safety?

The individuals doing the hazardous work at poultry slaughterhouses and processing plants (which includes sorting and trimming potentially contaminated chickens and turkeys) have it tough enough with the line speeds as they are.

As NCLR's Eric Rodriguez said, pressing ahead with the proposed rule is "gravely irresponsible" given the already dangerous conditions in today's poultry industry.

Workers shouldn't have to bite the bullet when it comes to line speed and safety, especially when their concerns involve the food that may end up on your family’s plate.

Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.