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IRRESPONSIBLE FEDERAL CONTRACTORS ABUSE ENVIRONMENT AND WORKERS, PUT SCHOOL-CHILDREN’S HEALTH AT RISK
Sierra Club Releases Information on Slaughterhouse Pollution, Contaminated Meat, Worker Safety
The Sierra Club today released a report showing that the federal School Lunch Program has continuously awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts to 12 companies that have had massive food safety recalls or violated environmental and worker safety laws. During the past five years, the federal government paid these companies $485 million for meat for public schools and other federal food programs.
"The animal factories producing meat for the federal School Lunch Program have polluted our air and water, experienced industrial accidents that resulted in worker deaths and put children’s health at risk," said Hank Graddy, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Clean Water Committee. "Meanwhile the federal government continues to reward this bad behavior by giving irresponsible federal contractors millions of taxpayers’ dollars every year. "It’s time to turn off the spigot of taxpayer money flowing to companies that violate our environmental and worker safety laws and threaten public health."
The report reviews the records of 18 slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, owned by 12 companies, that sold meat to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch Program. Based primarily on state and federal regulatory agencies’ records, court documents and corporate reference materials, the study provides many examples of contaminated food, worker endangerment and pollution at these slaughterhouses and processing plants. For example:
• Tyson Food, which provided the largest quantity of food to the School Lunch Program, racked up $102.7 million in sales from the School Lunch and other programs for sales of poultry, despite a history of environmental violations at its Monett, Missouri plant. At another Tyson’s plant in Kentucky, two workers were killed in an industrial accident.
• In 1996, John Morrell & Company paid $3 million in fines and penalties for criminal violations of the Clean Water Act at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant, yet continued to receive payments for sales of pork for federal nutrition programs.
• Between 1993 and 1997, the State of North Carolina documented at least 120 violations of pollution limits at Smithfield Packing Company’s Tar Heel plant. Smithfield, which now owns John Morrell, is the world’s largest integrated pork producer and packer. In December 2000, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board found that Smithfield had committed "egregious and pervasive" violations of federal labor law at its Tar Heel plant. Yet Smithfield has received $9.5 million from the sale of pork for the federal food programs since 1997.
• Over a recent eight-month period, five of the 12 companies have had to recall large quantities of contaminated food. Gold Kist and Supreme Beef Processors had sold meat to the School Lunch program during this time. Gold Kist, H&H Meat, IBP and Tyson have sold food to the School Lunch Program since having had recalls.
"The strongest incentive these animal factories have to safeguard our air and water, produce safe food for schoolchildren and protect their workers is the potential loss of contracts worth millions of dollars," said Graddy. "The federal government should contract with companies capable of abiding by our laws."