Smithfield Foods was one of the first companies to warn the nation meat was in danger Coronavirus infection spread through processing plants in April 2020 and health officials pressured the industry to halt some production to protect workers.
Now, a lawsuit filed last week by Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, accuses the giant pork producer of falsely inciting consumer fear and misleading the public.
The suit says the country was never in danger of running out of meat. It claims that there was sufficient supply in the cold storage, while at the same time Pork exports in particular to China were on the rise.. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Washington, where a law allows a nonprofit group to sue on behalf of consumers without requiring them to show that they have suffered direct harm.
“This creates a revenue-generating feedback loop that creates fear,” Food & Water Watch said in its lawsuit. “This incites and exploits consumer panic – the juxtaposition of demand and sales – and, in turn, provides the company with a false justification for operating its slaughterhouses at full tilt, leaving its employees vulnerable to unsafe workplace health and subject to safety conditions, which have caused thousands of Smithfield employees to contract the virus.”
Smithfield defended its security efforts, criticizing the consumer advocacy group. “The advocacy organizations making these claims have a stated goal of overhauling the efforts of our hard-working employees, who are helping to produce food products safely,” Smithfield Chief Administrative Officer Keira Lombardo said in a statement. Very proud.”
The meatpacking industry was a flash point during the pandemic as thousands of workers fell ill, many of them fatally. Smithfield and other companies launched an aggressive advertising campaign to highlight their worker safety efforts and emphasize the industry’s important role in feeding the nation.
Despite these claims, Food & Water Watch, which is represented in its lawsuit by Public Justice, a legal advocacy group, states that Smithfield has been accused of failing to adequately protect workers at its plants in California and South Dakota. was quoted by the regulators for
In her statement, Ms. Lombardo said, “Our health and safety measures are comprehensive, guided by medical and workplace safety expertise.”