Target: Brian Ronholm, Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety, United States Department of Agriculture
Goal: End the push to allow poultry processors to conduct their own food safety inspections
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says its plan to allow meat processors to conduct their own inspections won’t lead to food that is less safe for consumers. But numerous reports show the privatization of meat inspection will do exactly that. The USDA continues to push its plan, which it claims will save taxpayers money while boosting industry profits. Somewhere along the way, consumer safety was left out of the equation.
A recent incident of tainted chicken being sold under the Foster Farms label illustrates the dangers of deregulation. While the company admitted to selling poultry contaminated with salmonella, it refused to voluntarily recall its products. Instead, the company put the burden on consumers to properly cook the chicken before eating it. Regulators waited six months before acknowledging the issue, which by then had sickened hundreds of people in 18 states.
As clarified by ScienceBlogs, the “USDA’s plan is for the poultry industry to come up with its own standards for testing pathogens. The industry will even make the decision on how much salmonella is acceptable. On top of that–because the standards will be voluntary–USDA would have no authority to enforce them.” It is clear that meat processing companies cannot be trusted to police themselves. Tell the USDA to immediately end its push to privatize meat and poultry inspections.
Dear Under Secretary Ronholm,
The public has become increasingly concerned about USDA plans to privatize meat and poultry inspections. Watchdog groups, and even the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have criticized the USDA for failing to back up claims about the program’s effectiveness. Yet despite the failure of pilot programs to ensure consumer safety, you continue to defend the move towards deregulation.
In your letter to the editor following a damning article in the Charlotte Observer, you claim that “a 15-year pilot program demonstrates that the proposal would enhance oversight, prevent at least 5,000 food-borne illnesses per year, and not adversely impact worker safety.” The GAO found that your agency failed to even collect, let alone analyze, its own data in order to draw such conclusions. This willingness to misrepresent facts and to repeatedly disregard concerns represents a clear danger to consumers. I call on you to immediately change the USDA’s stance on self-inspection, and to end all plans to allow meat and poultry processors to police themselves.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Maqi via Wikimedia