A worker at a Virginia pork processing plant urinated on the production line, causing 50,000 pounds of meat to be destroyed, WIS-TV (Columbia, South Carolina) is reporting.
Last week, security cameras caught a line worker removing his gloves, unzipping his pants, doing the deed underneath the equipment, then putting his gloves back on and returning to work. It is unclear, as of this writing, if he splashed any urine onto any meat or equipment.
Regardless, factory officials erred on the side of caution and shut down production. They then cleaned and sterilized all of the equipment in the employee’s vicinity several times. They also threw out all of the meat that was on the line at the time – 50,000 pounds of it, or about 150 hogs’ worth of pork. The incident is estimated to have cost the company $190,000.
In a statement, company spokesperson Lisa Martin said that Smithfield will take no chances when it comes to the safety of its product.
“The facility and its employees’ immediate response and corrective actions to this isolated incident reflect the company’s commitment to ensuring the safety and quality of its products. The safety and quality of our foods is fundamental to our success as a company.”
It is unclear, as of this writing, whether or not the employee in question was simply in a hurry and not thinking clearly, or if, like some workers in the U.S., was working for a company that routinely denies its employees restroom breaks.
As NBC News reported in 2016, the meat-processing industry is notorious for denying its workers bathroom breaks. Several manufacturers, including Tyson Foods Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., and Sanderson Farms Inc., (and not, it bears noting, Smithfield) were accused of refusing to allow their employees to use the bathroom. Further, their supervisors were accused of ignoring or even mocking employees’ requests for bathroom breaks.
So bad is the situation that some workers reported that they, or their colleagues, have worn diapers on the job or limiting their fluid intake. One worker, who asked not to be named, said that she has diabetes and must monitor her fluid intake, but because of her job, she goes for long periods of time without water.
“What would be shocking in most workplaces happens far too often in poultry plants: Workers relieving themselves while standing at their work station. Too many workers tell stories about urinating on themselves, or witnessing coworkers urinating on themselves.”
Back in Virginia, the worker in question has been suspended while both the company and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigate.