Privatized Food Inspection Raises More Safety Concerns

Food & Water Watch Urges USDA to Rethink Equivalency Standards for Imported Meat

Washington, D.C —(ENEWSPF)—October 28, 2014. In response to last week’s discovery that a shipment of imported beef from Canada was contaminated with the pathogen E.coli 0157:H7, Food & Water Watch today urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to reassess the agency’s positions on equivalency for privatized inspection systems, stop the implementation of those systems domestically and uphold the U.S.-Canada border inspection program.

Last week, beef produced at the JBS Food Canada plant in Alberta, Canada, Canadian Establishment 0038, tested positive for the pathogen. This is the same plant that was implicated in the largest meat recall in Canadian history in 2012, with 12 million pounds of beef products eventually recalled, including 2.5 millions pounds that had been exported to the United States. As was the case in 2012, last week’s contamination was discovered by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at an import inspection station in Montana. Because of a new “test and hold” policy instituted by FSIS in February 2013, none of the contaminated beef from the lot tested last week entered U.S. commerce.

“This latest discovery of contaminated meat entering the United States illustrates why our border inspection system is so critical for consumer protection,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Through their plans to not only privatize meat inspection in the United States, but also weaken the border inspection program, USDA is clearly prioritizing meat industry interests over public health.”

Canadian Establishment 0038 uses a privatized inspection system that USDA recognized in 2006 as being “equivalent” to U.S. meat inspection that by law must be conducted by USDA inspectors. Food & Water Watch raised concerns again today about the legitimacy of that equivalency determination and also called for the preservation of the USDA import inspection program that has been targeted by the Canadian meat industry and multinational meat corporations for elimination through the Obama Administration’s U.S.– Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council deliberations.

Read the letter to the USDA here.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.