In the late 1990’s, the USDA began a pilot program that replaced half of their own meat plant inspectors with inspectors hired by the companies themselves. The results thus far have been bad, very bad. But instead of scrapping the program, this wise government agency that people trust to “okay” the meat on their plate wants to expand it and bring even more plants into the fray.
According to the Washington Post, three of the plants in the pilot program were among the 10 worst offenders for safety and health violations. This is out of the 608 such plants across the country. These violations included things like “failing to remove fecal matter from meat.” The worst safety record of all was found in one of the pilot program plants.
In these cases the meat didn’t leave the plants because they were discovered by USDA inspectors at the end of the line, so to speak, but officials say this is too late in the process for such violations to be discovered. In other words, their discovery so late could be called a near-miss, or one that almost got by them.
It’s an effort to save money and an effort to shrink the ever-expanding size and reach of our government, but couldn’t these goals be achieved by other means?
As the Daily Kos reports:
“The USDA has allowed other countries to use similar inspection procedures on meat being sent to America, with multiple Australian shipments being stopped at the border “because of contamination, which included fecal matter and partly digested food, records show.” Yum! A Canadian company using this type of inspection, meanwhile, had to recall millions of pounds of beef contaminated with E. coli, 2.5 million pounds of which had gone to the United States.”
Despite acknowledging the failures of the pilot program, the USDA is expected to propose rules for expansion. Chicken and turkey plants have been corralled into a similar pilot program that once again puts the safety of consumers in the hands of corporate-employed inspectors.
The troubling nature of this program and the results that it’s shown thus far provide another argument for buying from local producers, farmers you know operate ethical small farms and butcher locally rather than depending on large corporate plants where disease can spread like wildfire.