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Why there’s e.coli on your chicken

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You’ve heard the advice: Always wash food well, then cook it thoroughly, so you don’t get sick or maybe die. But have you wondered why raw food is dangerous? Where the germs come from?

“Beyond the low wages and high injury rates, the nation’s roughly 250,000 poultry workers are routinely denied bathroom breaks, leading some to wear diapers … according to a report released by Oxfam America, which details conditions that violate U.S. workplace safety laws. …

“Allowing for bathroom breaks is a logistical challenge at a poultry plant, an industrial operation where the whole line slows if one part stops, Oxfam noted in its report. Workers who need to use the bathroom must ask a supervisor, who then has to find someone to fill the spot to keep the line running. An adequately staffed plant has line assistants or floaters ready to step into any spot, and ideally workers would be given time to get to facilities that can be far away, along with having to remove and put back on the gloves and smocks worn for work.

“Yet in the course of hundreds of interviews only a handful of workers described their bathroom needs as respected, with those exceptions occurring primarily in plants with unions. … About two-thirds of the poultry workforce is not unionized. One survey of 266 workers in Alabama conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center found almost 80 percent were not allowed to take bathroom breaks when needed. A recent survey in Minnesota found 86 percent of workers interviewed said they get fewer than two bathroom breaks a week.

“Workers interviewed by Oxfam and partner organizations reported being yelled at or made fun of by supervisors, who also threatened firing or deportation. … According to Oxfam, a worker at a Pilgrim’s plant in Alabama said supervisors regularly threatened people: ‘Go to the bathroom, and from there, go to Human Resources.’ An employee at a Tyson plant in Arkansas said: ‘Our supervisor always makes fun of us. He says we eat too much so we go to the bathroom a lot.’

“Another Tyson worker in Arkansas noted: ‘One of the ladies who works with me was pregnant, and she was crying and walking out because our line lead didn’t let her go to the bathroom.’ A woman worker at a Perdue plant in the Delmarva region cited in the report said she once waited so long that she defecated in her pants before she got a break. A worker at a Sanderson plant in Mississippi noted: ‘Women have to tell male supervisors why they have to go to the bathroom and only have a few minutes to go and return. The supervisors are not considering the time it takes to walk to the restroom, remove your gear, put your gear back on and return to the line in those few minutes.'”

But even though such incidents are commonplace in chicken processing plants, when asked about them by the media, the processing companies either deny it’s happening or claim these are isolated incidents that violate their policies. If that’s true, why are so many workers complaining, and why do they keep happening? Either corporate offices don’t know what’s going on in their own plants, or they’re lying about it. Take your best guess as to which it is. Meanwhile, if workers on chicken processing lines are denied bathroom breaks, what do you think they’ll do when they can’t hold it any longer? In their pants, that’s what they’ll do. On a food processing line. Do you want to eat that food?

Read the story here.

 


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