Law Brings a New Age of Consumer Protection;
Noted Whistleblowers, Food Industry Critics and Watchdogs to Participate
(Washington, D.C.) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is reminding all interested parties about its upcoming conference, Employee Rights and the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will analyze the far-reaching implications of new whistleblower protections for food industry workers, and the law's overall impact on food safety. Launched by GAP's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) and co-hosted with the American University Washington College of Law (WCL), this all-day seminar will be held in Washington, D.C. this Friday, February 11 at WCL (4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW).
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in early January, establishes the first-ever private sector whistleblower protections enacted specifically for the food industry. By providing food industry whistleblowers with the necessary rights to safely speak out about violations involved with food processing, distribution, labeling, importation, and many more aspects of the food chain, these protections will help make America's food safer for consumers -- stopping outbreaks before they start.
“This is a sea change for the food industry," stated GAP Food Integrity Campaign director Amanda Hitt. "The new law provides monumental reforms, and we’re going to spotlight how the whistleblower provision is a huge step for private sector employees and its ability to protect consumers. Giving industry workers a safe channel to report bad practices is paramount to safeguarding public health.”
The conference features high-profile food industry whistleblowers and prominent critics of food industry practices. Participants include:
- Keynote speaker Bill Marler, noted national expert in foodborne illness litigation, who has represented countless victims of major outbreaks.
- Kit Foshee, former Chief of Quality Assurance for the nation’s leading producer of ground meat. After ten years on the job, he was fired in 2001 for refusing to go along with his company’s claim that its ammonia treatment process made its meat safe from dangerous pathogens. Sometimes it takes time for the truth to win out: In late 2009, a front-page feature in The New York Times confirmed Mr. Foshee’s allegations.
- Former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) assistant plant manager Kenneth Kendrick repeatedly reported to the Texas Department of Health food contamination issues that clearly posed a serious and widespread threat to public health. All of this happened before the massive Salmonella outbreak of 2009 linked to PCA. Kendrick’s whistleblowing conflicted with the company’s defense that the tainted product (from a Georgia plant) was an unexpected and isolated event.
- Other panelists will include Lewis Grossman, a co-author of the seminal legal text on the subject, Food and Drug Law; Caroline Smith-DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a principal architect of the FSMA; GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, a leader in the whistleblower community for over 30 years, and many more representatives from prominent national food safety nonprofit organizations that focus on labor and consumer protections, including: Food & Water Watch, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Public Health Law Network, Farmworker Justice, and several more.
For more information and updates to the conference schedule, visit the conference page on FIC's website.
It should be noted that the new protections cover all private food industry workers who report any food violations enforced by the FDA. However, the protections generally do not extend to employees who report violations of USDA regulations, which cover the meat and poultry industries.
“These FDA protections serve as a model whistleblower provision for other areas where workers still lack safeguards for speaking up,” said Hitt. "Private sector workers defending USDA food safety laws as well as federal employees can still be fired for doing the right thing."
GAP’s Tom Devine will be leading a conference workshop, Whistleblower Law 101, to address actions that workers can take in the face of retaliation for attempting to report food violations enforced by the FDA.
FIC's mission is to enhance overall food integrity by facilitating truth-telling. FIC accomplishes this mission by strategically working to alter the relationship of power between the food industry and consumers; protecting the rights of those who speak out against the practices that compromise food integrity; and empowering industry whistleblowers and citizen activists. More than just food safety, food integrity implies a global perspective of food that is produced in ways consistent with community values, principles, and beliefs - from soil to plate.
Contact: Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 159
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.