Monday, May 19


There's little new in this Philadelphia Inquirer series on the ineffectiveness of the USDA in handling the meat industry; most of it rehashes the Denver Post series from last August. But what new stuff there is, pegged to the Wampler recall of fatally poisonous deli meat, is pretty interesting...

Vince Erthal, the food-safety inspector at the center of that whirlwind, says his supervisors gave "Wampler managers advance notice of USDA's 'random' listeria tests, which allowed the company to conduct 'special cleanups' that ensured negative listeria findings." Gosh! If I didn't know better, I'd sure call that "fraud" - wouldn't you? And before discounting him as a lone nutcase, bear in mind that "he is among a number of field inspectors across the country who have accused USDA managers of refusing to aggressively police plants with sanitary problems."

In the rewrite of the Denver Post USDA-too-close-to-the-meat-industry (which, let's remember, was basically a rewrite on PCRM's position paper on the USDA from three years ago), it's noted that when Michael R. Taylor became the USDA's head of food safety, "he found his phone was equipped with speed-dial buttons for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the American Meat Institute." Taylor closes that sidebar with the observation that the agency's meat-industry large population of meat-industry alumni "creates a fundamental conflict of interest because it forces the secretary of agriculture to balance her food-safety responsibilities with her economic and promotional functions." Oddly, though, "her" (Ann Veneman's) ties to industry powerhouses like Cargill and Monsanto goes completely unmentioned, as though some of the editors got cold feet at the last moment and removed the relevant paragraph.

It's not at all surprising, though, that the nine "Tips to Avoid Food-Borne Illnesses" do not include the simplest, most commonsense and effective tip of all: REDUCE OR ELIMINATE YOUR CONSUMPTION OF FOOD IN WHICH THESE BACTERIA ORIGINATE. Yep, innocent kids dying horrendous deaths from E.Coli poisoning we can take, but doing without meat? It's literally unthinkable.

UPDATE 5/21: Inquirer Editorial following up on series. Turns out they're against bad meat.

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