Whistleblowers Find Protection in New Food Safety Law
The little-noticed provision in the all-encompassing food safety law which was signed by President Barack Obama last month has provided the much needed protection for food industry workers who become whistleblowers against retaliation from their employers.
Best known for sections that seek to prevent food-borne illnesses, the Food Safety and Modernization Act permit the Food and Drug Administration to order recalls. The law also makes it easier for the regulators to trace the origins of contaminated food.
In addition, the Food Safety and Modernization Act also shields those working at food companies policed by the FDA against being demoted, denied promotions or raises, or being fired if they talk about what they believe are violations.
Nevertheless, these employment safeguards mean nothing to the workers if most of them do not know of its existence.
This is why the non-profit whistle blowing organization Government Accountability Project, which supported the new safeguards, will sponsor a conference in Washington Friday to raise worker awareness.
According to the group’s legal director, Tom Devine, “Whistleblowers are the informational lifeline to warn the public when government-approved food might be a public health hazard.” He added, “It occurs frequently because the regulatory system can’t hope to catch all the violations through spot checks.”
Kenneth Kendrick, the plant assistant manager for Peanut Corp in Texas who spoke out in 2009 about the unsanitary conditions in the company’s Texas plant, will be one of the speakers.
Government officials, lawyers and activists were expected to attend the said conference.