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Mad Cow, Eye Cancer, Feces in Your Food? The Price of Cutting Back on Meat Inspectors

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center Page, CAFO's vs Free Range Page and our Mad Cow Disease Page.

The USDA is cutting back on federal meat inspectors, allowing slaughterhouses to self-police, and already questions about the program are surfacing. This month, USDA recalled  8.7 million pounds of beef products processed at Rancho Feeding Corp. which included Nestle's Philly Steak and Cheese and Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets, Walmart Fatburgers, Kroger Ground Beef Mini Sliders and other well-known brands.

The reason for the gigantic recall, says USDA, is that the slaughterhouse  "processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection." The multi-state recall, applying to all meat produced over a year at the facility, caused Rancho Feeding Corp. to  close.

The USDA cost-cutting, self-regulation program, called HIMP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project) will eliminate  800 federal meat inspectors and is already in operation at about 25 chicken and turkey plants. It likely played a role in the Rancho Feeding Corp. recall said Stan Painter, president of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, which represents 6,000 inspectors nationwide. "In many places, managers and veterinarians are being asked to help with inspections," because of a shortage of federal inspectors, he said.

Six years ago, Painter spoke out about cutbacks in federal inspection when undercover video of "downer" cows moved with electric prods, forklifts and water hoses at the Chino, Ca-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. slaughterhouse surfaced.   Painter warned that the government's cost-driven move toward self-regulation of private slaughterhouses amounted to the fox "guarding its own henhouse." The meat from the cows, which was supplying the National School Lunch Program, was recalled because of the high likelihood of "downer cows" carry Mad Cow disease. It became the largest meat recall in US history.     


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