Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C.—“Today’s introduction of Senator Gillibrand’s Safe Meat and Poultry Act of 2013 is welcome news for consumers. Senator Gillibrand’s bill would correct a long list of loopholes in the meat and poultry inspection program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that have been putting public health at risk.
“The bill is comprehensive in its approach to fixing deficiencies in FSIS’s inspection programs, but also reinforces the critical role that continuous USDA inspection of meat and poultry plays in protecting public health. The bill explicitly requires USDA to maintain the frequency, staffing levels and carcass-by-carcass inspection that is the foundation by which these consumer protection programs were built.
“The bill makes a number of improvements to FSIS inspection by:
Creating enforceable performance standards for pathogens and defining products containing dangerous pathogens as adulterated
- Requiring increased pathogen testing of high-risk products such as ground beef trim
- Establishing a trace back program to allow FSIS to identify the source of contaminated meat back to the slaughter plant and to require recordkeeping to address multi-source products
- Giving FSIS mandatory recall authority and increasing the amount of information made available to consumers about recalled product, including retailers who carry it
- Requiring FSIS to do annual audits of foreign meat and poultry plants, as opposed to the current policy to allow foreign countries to self-report in lieu of FSIS audits
- Requiring FSIS to evaluate occupational health and safety issues in the meat and poultry sector and set maximum line speeds for facilities
- Improving whistleblower protections for USDA meat inspectors and company employees
- Increasing congressional oversight of the trouble-plagued Public Health Information System computer system that is impeding USDA inspection
“In light of the recent decisions by FSIS to allow imports from countries with questionable food safety systems, deregulate U.S. poultry inspection and allow faster line speeds, the Safe Meat and Poultry Act of 2013 is vitally important. We urge other members of Congress to support this long overdue bill to strengthen the public health protections offered by USDA meat and poultry inspection.”
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; drak[email protected]