Friday, November 14


FSIS chief Garry McKee blasted USDA inspectors for persistent problems in meat safety in a "blistering speech" last month. One of his criticisms was for turning a blind eye to "unsafe and cruel practices at the nation's meat processing plants" including violations of the Humane Slaughter Act. "Over the past few years," the USA Today article notes, "there have been revelations about USDA inspectors doing nothing while pathogens such as E. coli and listeria were found in meat plants." The speech makes it clear that the institutional problem of the USDA being too cozy with the meat industry is widespread and ongoing.

More significantly, McKee took issue with a standard piece of meat-recall boilerplate: The USDA's lack of authority to shut down plants. "I am tired of reading articles quoting our inspectors as saying we don't have the authority to take action against a plant that is patently violating ... our statutes. Everyone in this room knows we have the authority," McKee said.

That's not all. He admitted that even were HACCP to work, a number of plants simply ignore the testing system. "We know that there are some plants out there that take a minimalist or cut-and-paste approach to HACCP, tossing aside their plans to collect dust on a shelf. The time for ignorance and excuses is over. Plants must have a living, vibrant HACCP plan in place that works and is validated. We can not tolerate facilities that do NOT even recognize that the risk of pathogens exists." Well, no. That is kind of crucial.

Especially since it's those pathogens that lead to still more massive recalls, such as this latest one I'll warrant you never heard about, involving 90,000 pounds - or 45 tons - of beef likely contaminated with E. coli. So, maybe it's time for inspectors to, you know, kick some ass?

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