Investigation reveals violations in poultry processing plants in US

Photo: Henk Riswick
Photo: Henk Riswick

Investigative research into the state of US meat production has uncovered a range of severe hygiene violations in unpublished US documents.

Work by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian has revealed a catalogue of hygiene failings in some major US meat plants producing poultry, pork and beef.


These include breaches relating to inadequate cleaning, contamination of carcasses, insanitary conditions and other hygiene failings.

Unpublished US government records highlight a number of specific incidents. These include:


  • Dirty chicken soiled with faeces, or having been dropped on the floor, being put back onto the production line after being rinsed with chlorine.
  • Diseased poultry meat – that had been condemned – found in containers used to hold edible food products.
  • High-powered hoses being used to clean dirty floors next to working production lines containing food products.
  • Factory floors flooded with dirty water after drains became blocked by meat debris.


The report claims there were 15,000 violations at 13 large red meat and poultry plants between 2015-2017. Data from separate documents show a number of failings at 24 plants operated by Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the US’s largest poultry providers, the Bureau claimed.

More than 36,000 individual regulatory violations, numbering nearly 50 a day, were found between 2014-2016.


The meat giant JBS, which owns Pilgrim’s Pride, said in a statement that all of the incidents highlighted at the plants were immediately addressed and no consumers were put at risk.

But Tim Lang, professor of food policy at London’s City University, said the findings showed the potential risk to consumers.

“The lamentable figures in this study remind us that big plants generate big problems when they go wrong.

“British consumers must not be tantalised by offers of notionally cheaper US or international meat,” he added in reference to the ongoing debate in the UK on trade deals post Brexit.

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Tony Mcdougal Freelance Journalist