March 22, 2000
USDA Reduction in Meat Inspections Is Irresponsible, Puts Public At Risk
Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday announced plans to reduce inspectors’ visits to food processing plants, despite recent scares over contaminated meat products. Inspectors will make daily, random visits to plants, instead of visiting every processing plant once a shift. The move will save the food industry an estimated $19 million a year and will eliminate 150 positions from the department’s 7,500 employee inspection force, according to news reports.
Once again, the government is turning its back on consumers in favor of the powerful, moneyed food industry. It is no coincidence that this action comes on the heels of the government’s recent legalization of food irradiation of raw meat such as ground beef, steaks and pork chops.
Decreasing food inspectors and irradiating food is not the answer to the problem of food contamination and food-borne illness. Many corporate factory farms use dirty food handling practices that regularly contaminate meat with feces, urine, pus and other contaminants that spread disease. Rather than cleaning up these factories, the food industry and government have chosen a cheap, quick alternative in the form of irradiation. Food irradiation has not been proven safe by any long-term studies and is no substitute for thorough food inspection by the USDA.
The government is heading in the wrong direction when saving money for the food industry, rather than protecting public health and safety, becomes the bottom line.