The Bush Administration Warned Meat Packers About Pandemics. They Wouldn’t Listen.
In November 2005, the White House issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. Pandemics planning became a worldwide priority. Meetings were held with all of the country’s meat packing companies about pandemics. Emergency planners knew that a highly contagious virus would cause food shortages and closures. Government experts urged companies to prepare.
The meat packing managers didn’t heed the warnings. They didn’t stockpile masks or create barriers for shoulder-to-shoulder workers or plan for labor shortages and plant closings. They just didn’t believe the experts, even in meetings they routinely attended.
“It was an unmitigated disaster for food processors, and it didn’t have to be,” said John Hoffman, who developed emergency planning for the food and agriculture sector during the George W. Bush administration. “This pandemic has unfolded pretty much as the pandemic plan has suggested.”
The meat packing industry denied that a plan and guidance had ever existed.
“What no one anticipated, and has never happened in our lifetimes, is the scenario we are living through today,” wrote Kenneth Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer.
The best protest: Stop eating red meat. That will help the food industry to wake up and worry about the next pandemic and meat production.