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Organic Consumers Association

USDA Seeks to Expand Pilot Program Which Leaves Meat Contaminated with Fecal Matter

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page.

Half of the USDA inspectors in industrial meat plants will be replaced with inspectors employed by the very same companies whose meats they are inspecting if plans by the US Department of Agriculture are allowed to go forward.

Is there poop in your pork and poultry? It's a serious question.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has plans to expand a privatized meat inspection model that has been in place for 14 years at five hog plants in the United States and which has been found to fail time and time again at preventing contamination of meat - with fecal matter.

The program, known as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project - or HIMP - has been in place since the late 1990s and its expansion would replace almost half the USDA Food Safety Service inspectors in industrial meat plants with inspectors employed by those very same companies. It would reportedly speed up production lines by as much as 20 percent.

But a recent article in The Washington Post, reports that three out of the five pilot HIMP plants were among the 10 worst health and safety violators in the country, according to a spring report by the USDA inspector general.

"The USDA all along has been saying that these pilots will prove that removing government inspectors and turning over [their] the responsibilities to the company employees will enhance food safety when, in essence, the exact opposite has occurred," said Tony Corbo, who directs the food program at nonprofit Food & Water Watch.

Although the HIMP pilot program is still in a preliminary stage, the Agriculture Department has given a green light to Australia, Canada and New Zealand to use this experimental, privatized model of food inspection in meat plants whose products are for export to the United States, even though the foreign plants operating under processes considered equivalent to the HIMP program have experienced an epidemic of contamination-related problems within the past two years, including a Canadian plant which had to recall more than 8.8 million pounds of beef product fouled with E. coli.

Corbo told Truthout that, in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a coalition of consumer groups are formally requesting the USDA halt the HIMP pilot projects and revoke the determination the department has made with foreign countries, which allows them to use similar meat inspection processes.  


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