Ever seen the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy takes a job at the chocolate factory? She can’t keep up with the line speed and starts desperately eating the chocolates to hide her mistakes. Similarly — but with a less hilarious outcome — line speeds in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants have skyrocketed over the last several decades. This gives inspectors less time to thoroughly examine the meat that is being sold to consumers. Additionally, the meat industry, and some in Congress, is pushing for a privatized meat inspection system, where company employees check to make sure the company meat is safe. A bit like the fox guarding the hen house, no?
Meat inspection is paramount to safe food. Consumers need government inspectors to watch over the industry and make sure that dangerous bugs like E. coli and Salmonella don’t contaminate our food. Food & Water Watch advocates for a strong, well-funded government meat inspection system to ensure food safety.
Meat Imports from Canada
Check out these photos, which show conditions discovered at a USDA border inspection station looking at meat imports coming in from Canada. They serve as powerful evidence why it is important to keep those border inspection programs running, and not go through with a proposal USDA is considering to weaken that inspection by streamlining the process of importing meat from Canada.
Privatized Poultry Inspection: USDA’s Pilot Project Results
The USDA has been running a pilot project called the HACCP-based Inspection Model Project (HIMP) in two-dozen slaughter facilities since 1998. The majority of these plants are young chicken slaughter plants, but there are also turkey and market hog slaughter plants included in the pilot. In the chicken plants, line speeds have been permitted to run faster than other poultry slaughter plants. In HIMP plants, company employees perform inspections that used to be performed by USDA inspectors. USDA conducts sampling of product at the end of the slaughter line to assess the plants’ performance in several categories.
Food & Water Watch requested sampling results from USDA under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2011. Read more.