Regs to Nowhere

Pandemics Ahead: Number 1 in a series looking at the link between animal protein and global health disasters.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157)

In 1906, Upton Sinclair's seminal book, The Jungle, first brought the shocking details of the animal industry to the forefront of US national attention. A national outcry prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to task the USDA with the inspection of animal carcasses and slaughterhouses.(988) When Congress first addressed food safety issues, it concentrated on the meat processing industry with the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 that required meat processing to be continuously inspected. The US food processing sector is now extensively regulated by state and federal agencies.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. The law grants FDA a number of new powers, like mandatory recall authority, which the agency has sought for many years. Notably, federal law still does not prohibit the sale of animal-based products that are infected with pathogens. In particular, it is not illegal for TFCs (transnational food corporations) to sell chicken products polluted with salmonella. Oddly, the USDA does not have the authority to shut down an animal-based agribusiness that fails too many tests. It can only step up inspections.

The USDA has pledged repeatedly to set limits for the most dangerous pathogens, salmonella and campylobacter, in animal-based products. Salmonella and campylobacter live in the guts of animals and can contaminate raw flesh when animals are slaughtered. The USDA's current expectation is that less than 44.6% of a plant’s ground chicken and 49.9% of a plant’s ground turkey should be infected with Salmonella.(989) This means around half of the total animal carcass production can be dangerously toxic and still be approved for consumption.

On January 21, 2015, the USDA finally proposed new testing standards for chicken and turkey aimed at reducing rates of salmonella and other bacteria. The proposed rules aim to reduce contaminant levels by about half, to 25% of tested samples.(990) This is still a dangerous amount of bacteria.

The USDA is not requiring chicken processors to take specific steps to reduce dangerous pathogens in their products. Instead, it is proposing limits on the number of chicken samples that can test positive for salmonella and campylobacter before a facility is deemed to have failed the standards. One of the agency's pilot program allows pig carcass producers to ramp up the speed of processing lines by 20% and cut the number of USDA safety inspectors at each plant in half, replacing them with private inspectors. This program fails to stop contamination, and USDA has allowed other countries to use equivalent methods in plants producing red meat for export to the US.(991)

The USDA's own report determined that livestock “plants have repeatedly violated the same regulations with little or no consequence.” And that inspectors did not “take enforcement actions against plants that violated food safety regulations.”(992)

Meat recalls due to contamination have become so commonplace that when the USDA announced in 2008 the recall of 143 million pounds (65m kg) of ground cow carcass, the largest recall in history, it hardly sparked much interest. Around 50 million pounds (22m kg) of that cow flesh went into school lunches and federal food programs for the poor and elderly.(993)

Livestock production creates a multitude of health issues for people and animals. In the US, chicken products contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, cause a larger number of deaths than any other food product.(994) Numerous illnesses can quickly become life-threatening for food animals trapped in CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operation), and can spread rapidly under massed confinement.(995)

Chapter 27: PANZOOTIC, page 256.     Previous  |  Home  |  Next

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