Food & Water Watch v. Smithfield Foods

Food & Water Watch v. Smithfield Foods

Food & Water Watch, represented by FarmSTAND (formerly the Food Project at Public Justice), filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against Smithfield Foods, alleging that the multinational meat processing company repeatedly lied to consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic so it could protect its bottom line—at the expense of its workers’ lives. 

COVID-19 laid bare the meat industry’s chronic worker abuse, as outbreak after outbreak swept through communities of meatpacking workers, who are mostly people of color. To assuage consumers’ concerns about worker safety, Smithfield claimed it was aggressively protecting meatpacking workers. In reality, workers were gravely endangered, and Smithfield slaughterhouses repeatedly emerged as epicenters for COVID-19 outbreaks. 

At the onset of the pandemic, the threat of empty grocery shelves sparked panic among American consumers. Stockpiling ensued after meat companies like Smithfield said that shortages were imminent. This was a lie, too — meat shortages were never on the horizon.While Smithfield told the public that the sky was falling, the company was dramatically increasing its foreign pork exports to record high levels. Billions of pounds of meat were held in freezer warehouses throughout the country, which was more than enough to keep grocery stores stocked for months.  

This lawsuit seeks to protect workers by holding Smithfield accountable and making it clear to meatpacking companies that any claim of aggressive worker protections must be accompanied by action.  

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