Read a recent article by Alan Guebert, an award-winning agricultural journalist, on the subject of the USDA's history with agri-businesses.
In the past decades, the USDA's decisions would make anyone wonder whose interests they are protecting: the health of Americans, or the health of large corporations. For example:
- Two months after the National Academy of Sciences announced two deadly outbreaks in the meat industry, the USDA introduced the Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle (SIS-C), which reduced the number of federal food inspectors in factories. Instead, each company's own employees were to investigate and report their own safety issues. (This was a year after two major meat companies were found to be falsifying their safety logs.)
- Following the Jack In the Box E.coli outbreak in 1993, when hundreds of people were hospitalized and a few died from eating tainted burgers, the head of the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service made an announcement that E. coli outbreaks are "unavoidable, and not cause for condemnation of the product." (Some of the contaminated burgers were from SIS-C plants.)
- When President Clinton came into office, he announced that the USDA would adopt a long-overdue "science-based meat inspection system" (such as microbial testing). The USDA met with meat packing executives and decided that tests were to be conducted by each company's own employees. Not only were meat companies not required to test for E.coli; the tests results were not to be available to the public.
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