Investigation Reveals That Tyson Foods Dumped 371 Pounds of Toxic Chemicals in the Past 5 Years

By: Beth Moreton | Published: May 12, 2024

An investigation into Tyson Foods has found that the meat processing giant has been dumping 371 pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways all over the U.S. throughout the past 5 years.

These chemicals pose a threat to humans, animals, and ecosystems, and the investigation has led to many calling for stricter regulations on toxic waste disposal.

Biden Administration Cracks Down on Toxic Pollution

The Biden administration has announced its plans to crack down on over 200 businesses to reduce their toxic pollution levels. 

A beach with palm trees, sand and the sea. Piles of rubbish, mostly plastic waste, have been dumped on the beach.

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This will be placed under the Environmental Protection Agency, which wants to reduce harmful waste, toxic water run-off and radiation.

Tyson Foods’ Toxic Waste Was in 87 Billion Gallons of Wastewater

The investigation revealed that Tyson Foods’ toxic chemicals were put into 87 billion gallons of wastewater before being put into the waterways. 

Yellow, blue, red and green plastic containers that contain toxic waste and have been dumped.

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This wastewater filled around 132,000 Olympic-sized pools, which could cover Manhattan and New York more than two times over. 

Tyson Foods Dumped Toxic Chemicals in 17 States

The investigation also revealed that Tyson Foods had dumped toxic chemicals in at least 17 states.

Toxic waste that has been dumped in a river.

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However, at least half of this toxic waste was dumped into Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri waterways. 

The Midwest’s Environmental Problems

The Midwest already has environmental problems as it has high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus caused by industrial farming.

A ditch full of water in the center of some grass. The water looks dirty.

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This causes algae to grow, harming infrastructure and worsening respiratory issues. It also reduces oxygen levels in the water, which leads to aquatic life suffocating and dying. 

The Toxic Chemicals Can Exacerbate Respiratory Conditions

The toxic chemicals dumped by Tyson Foods can particularly affect those with respiratory conditions. 

A rusty bin with a yellow and black sign for toxic waste on the side of it.

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They can also clog the water infrastructure and contribute to dead zones that harm aquatic life and humans.


The Dangers of Chlorides and Sulfates

Tyson Foods also released chlorides and sulfates into the environment, which both have their own disastrous consequences.

A pile of sodium chloride on the ground next to some water. A wheelbarrow is behind it with another pile of sodium chloride inside it.

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Chlorides can be corrosive to waterpipes, and sulfates can cause gastrointestinal issues in humans. 


15 States Have Drinking Water Containing Nitrates

The investigation also found that 15 U.S. states have high levels of nitrates in their water.

A woman drinking out of a clear glass of water.

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These levels can lead to blood disorders and brain defects in infants. It has also caused around 300 cancer cases per year just in Iowa. 


Meat Processing Facilities Are Unregulated

Tyson Foods has been able to get away with this for a long time because meat processing facilities in the U.S. are unregulated regarding water regulations.

Some raw meat with string wrapped around it hanging from the ceiling.

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This causes many environmental issues and is a public health concern because the toxic chemicals cause irreversible damage. 


Tyson Foods Ordered to Pay $2 Million

The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered Tyson Foods to pay a $2 million criminal fine.

A Tyson Foods truck. On the side of the truck, it says “Tyson any’tizers,” with an image of some chicken bites along the side.

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The sentencing was made at a Federal Court in Missouri. The company was also ordered to serve 2 years of probation and to pay a further $500,000 for violating the Clean Water Act. 


Tyson Foods Killed 108,000 Fish

Tyson Foods received these fines after it was found to be responsible for the deaths of around 108,000 fish.

A school of black fish swimming in water. There are branches and rocks in the water.

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This was caused after a tank that stored Alimet sprang a leak, with the tank’s contents being put into the sewers. The Alimet then killed the bacteria that reduced ammonia, which caused the ammonia to be released and, ultimately, killed the fish. 


How Policymakers Can Reduce Toxic Chemical Damage

There are several ways to reduce the amount of toxic chemical waste caused by big corporations, including Tyson Foods.

A blue carton with a white sticker on the side that says “Toxic.” The carton is lying on some sand next to the sea.

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These include stricter regulations on wastewater pollution standards, better enforcement of discharge limits, and cracking down on the corporate consolidation that has enabled Tyson Foods to dump this amount of toxic chemicals.