Between pink slime in school lunches, reckless approval of genetically modified organisms, and classifying pizza as a vegetable, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to making sure our food supply contains, well, actual food.
And it looks like instead of strengthening rules about safe food production, the USDA would rather expand its “hands off” approach: the agency wants to cut back on its meat and poultry inspection program and let company employees do the job currently done by 800 professional federal inspectors.
In other words, they want to allow an industry with a long record of food safety failures to regulate itself.
Today, food inspectors, food safety advocates and consumers gathered in front of the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington D.C. to protest the plans to privatize and hasten the inspection of poultry slaughter plants.
Image provided by Food & Water Watch
“Cutting the budget does not justify putting the health and safety of consumers and workers in the balance,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, which participated in the protest. ”USDA inspectors receive extensive training to protect public health in poultry facilities, but there is no similar requirement for company employees to receive training before they assume these inspection responsibilities in the proposed privatized inspection system. This short-sighted thinking could actually cost the federal government more to deal with a potential increase in foodborne illnesses caused by unsanitary, defective poultry and meat.”
A recent Food & Water Watch analysis of a pilot program for these cuts found an appalling amount of defective and unsanitary poultry contaminated with feces, bile and feathers got through.
What do you think? Should a shrinking federal budget mean the meat and poultry industries get to oversee themselves?
The USDA is taking comments on the proposal until April 26. Check out what USDA inspectors are saying about the proposed changes, including the obstacles they already face that will be worsened if the new rule goes into effect. It doesn’t help that federal employees already lack adequate whistleblower protections. Submit a comment and tell USDA why privatizing inspection is a bad idea!
Image via Thinkstock