Contaminated meat imported in US after inspection system failure

Sept. 10, 2013

USDA’s new inspection system has failed to stop hazardous meat from leaving the plants in which the program has already been implemented.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is planning to introduce a new meat inspection program in meat plants across the country despite increasing concerns that the program does not guarantee protection against contamination. In fact, the new inspection system, which would see the number of USDA inspectors in meat facilities cut in half and the speed of processing lines raised by 20 percent, has failed to stop hazardous meat from leaving the plants in which the program has already been implemented, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Documents exchanged between the USDA and a number of Canadian and Australian meat plants that produce meat for export to the United States reveal that a pilot program equivalent to the one to be introduced on the local market has led to serious problems, the news source claimed.

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One of the Canadian plants that uses the system had to recall 8.8 million pounds of beef and beef products contaminated with E.coli in late 2012. More than a quarter of this was recalled from the American market. According to Canadian safety inspectors, one of the reasons for the contamination was the faster line speed, The Washington Post said.

Moreover, since the start of 2013, 11 shipments of beef, mutton and goat meat from Australian plants using the inspection system had been blocked at various U.S. ports because of contamination.

The USDA did not provide any comment on the matter but agency officials have previously noted that the Agriculture Department is planning to complete an evaluation of the pilot scheme by the spring of 2014 and will propose rules to accompany the nationwide rollout of the system.