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New Whistleblower Protections Could Impact Food Safety Oversight

A new bill on its way to President Obama’s desk for approval aims to improve protections for whistleblowers working in the federal government, including those in food-related areas such as veterinarians, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors and U.S. Food and Drug Administration employees.

On Tuesday, Congress passed the Whislteblower Protection Enhancement Act to help ensure that whistleblowers will be safe from retaliation if reporting industry violations.

In a statement praising the bill, the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign listed a number of examples in which professionals working at the federal level would receive whistleblower protection:

- A public health veterinarian reporting to his/her USDA supervisor that a slaughterhouse repeatedly violated humane handling regulations

- An FDA inspector who tries to expose falsification of Salmonella records at a cantaloupe farm

- A Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) district office manager reporting frequent complaints by FSIS poultry inspectors that increased line speeds have made it impossible for workers to pull all potentially contaminated birds off the line

- An FDA researcher whose attempts at publishing new findings on a controversial food ingredient are stifled by upper management

Still, the new protections only cover federal food employees, the statement noted. The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act also extends protections to corporate employees exposing problems with FDA-regulated products.

“However, USDA-regulated product industry workers still lack protections,” the statement read. “These workers — who monitor our beef, poultry, pork and egg products — still cannot safely speak up for the public welfare.”

© Food Safety News
  • Paul Coupland

    All sources of whistle blowing should be encouraged & protected, not just some!