These moves are much in keeping with the Republican push to allow each American industry to “self-regulate” in good faith rather than be held to federally specified worker and public safety requirements. It is the same re-imagining of the federal role that saw the Federal Aviation Administration pass off certification of airliner safety to the airline manufacturers, a move currently being probed as a possible factor in the malfunctions and deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX commercial jets. If there is any glimmer of good news here, it is that pigs can’t fly.
It also seems that these new changes will, as with many of these deregulation efforts, be of advantage primarily to the very largest mega-corporations. The Post reports that the Trump administration intends to roll out the new deregulated program to 40 plants, out of the nation’s roughly 600, but that those 40 plants will collectively “produce 90 percent of the pork produced in the United States.”
It is self-evident that a program that reduces testing for salmonella, E. coli, hoof-and-mouth, and other diseases will result in increases of each. That has been the whole point of USDA regulations, after all: They were put in place to ensure the quality of the U.S. food supply or to stifle highly contagious livestock diseases before they could spread further, and each regulation came about due to previous incidents of (sometimes widespread) disease or contamination.
After the first large new outbreak happens, a new administration will likely re-tighten those same controls, returning to something much like the original system. But it will only be after something goes wrong. Food safety advocates and industry watchers warn that the “something goes wrong” part, if it results in a new epidemic, could mean human deaths, catastrophic industry losses, or both. For consumers, the only recourse would appear to be not buying the stuff.