U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL TRANSMITS
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION IN RESPONSE TO WHISTLEBLOWER’S ALLEGATIONS OF
SAFETY CONCERNS AT FOOD SAFETY AND INSPECTION SERVICE IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 9/20/00
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today transmitted
to President Clinton and the Congress, an investigative report from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA), into whistleblower allegations of
violations of law, rule, or regulation and a substantial and specific danger
to public health at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), in
The whistleblower, who made his disclosure to OSC,
alleged that for the past several years line inspectors at Shapiro Packing,
a meat processing plant, routinely left their duty stations without
arranging for other inspectors to cover their stations. According to the
whistleblower, this practice created a danger to public health because other
inspectors had to work more quickly to inspect the carcasses when an
inspector was not properly relieved. The whistleblower was concerned that
the cows were not being properly inspected, increasing the risk that a
diseased or otherwise contaminated cow would be processed, stamped “USDA
Inspected,” and distributed for consumer consumption.
The OSC found that the whistleblower’s disclosures
demonstrated a substantial likelihood of violation of law and specific
danger to public health, and forwarded the allegations to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, directing it to conduct an investigation and
provide a written report.
The USDA’s report supported the whistleblower’s claim
that for the last two years line inspectors were improperly leaving their
duty stations without arranging for proper relief. However, in June of this
year, the agency gave the inspectors specific instructions concerning the
proper method of relief and the improper conduct has since ceased. The
agency denied that these practices created a danger to public health. The
report emphasized that all carcasses and parts received proper and thorough
inspection and that the inspectors were able to effectively cover an absent
inspector’s adjacent station for brief periods of time.
Based on its findings, the USDA has cautioned its
inspectors about leaving their duty stations without coverage. The agency
also intends to take appropriate action to correct the rotation practices,
so that rotation only occurs during breaks or when a floor inspector is
present to provide appropriate coverage. Lastly, the agency proposed
disciplinary action against the line inspectors’ supervisor who, despite
two previous letters of instruction regarding proper line staffing and
coverage, failed to take measures to assure compliance with relief
Among its other functions, the Office of Special Counsel
provides federal employees with a secure channel for blowing the whistle on
violations of law, rule, or regulation, gross mismanagement or waste of
funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public
health and safety. The OSC is empowered to require agencies to conduct
investigations whenever it finds a substantial likelihood that a federal
employee’s disclosures demonstrate the existence of one of these
conditions, and to report back to the OSC its finding along with any
corrective action taken. After the OSC reviews the report to ensure that it
contains the necessary information and that its findings appear reasonable,
the OSC transmits the report to the President and the Congress for further
action, if appropriate.
Copies of the Department of Agriculture’s report and
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan’s transmittal letter can be obtained by
contacting the OSC.