SMITHFIELD, Va., July 30, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Smithfield Foods, Inc.'s (NYSE:SFD) companywide injury and illness rates for fiscal year 2012 continued at their lowest levels in the company's history, and again remained well below the national average for the meatpacking industry. In 2012 Smithfield's injury and illness rate was 3.42 injuries per 100 employees, down from 3.93 in 2011. Although the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics has not yet released industry-wide data on workplace injuries and illnesses for 2012, Smithfield Foods is confident that its rates will again be well below the national average for meat and agriculture industries and close to the national averages for all general industry. Smithfield's 2011 rate was 41.3% below the national average for beef and pork processors. "We have come a long way in protecting our employees from injury and illness while at work, with a goal of preventing all workplace injuries," said John Tignor, Smithfield's corporate director of health, safety and security. "While there is still a lot of room for improvement, the good news is that we continued to make progress in employee safety," said C. Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer. Last week Smithfield handed out Health and Safety Excellence Awards to its independent operating companies at the company's annual Safety and Environmental Awards Conference. The awards are intended to honor the highest level of health and safety performance by subsidiaries and individual facilities, with emphasis on preventing injury and illness through proper systems management. Smithfield has also been recognized externally for its worker safety efforts. In 2012 Smithfield was selected by McDonald's Corporation as one of the restaurant chain's Global Best of Sustainable Supply Chain winners for their ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of their employees. Coveted Award Each year, Smithfield's subsidiaries are evaluated for the coveted Smithfield President's Award for Health and Safety Excellence. Nominations are based on stringent criteria regarding implementation of the company's Employee Injury Prevention Management System (EIPMS) and overall results in preventing injury and illness.