Targret: Alfred V. Almanza, director of the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
Goal: Recall the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s new computer system until all glitches are repaired
Recently, the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s 20 million dollar computer system went down for two days, leaving millions of pounds of meat, poultry, pork, and lamb at risk for contamination. Because of the shutdown, the meat was shipped out to grocery stores before workers could test it for E. coli and other bacteria. Although no meat recalls have been issued since the system faltered, using a faulty implementation is a threat to our food safety.
The two-year-old computer system is in use across the nation’s 6,500 meat processing plants, and was created with the goal of making it easier and faster for the agency to track contamination before it led to outbreak. Despite the noble goal, the system has had numerous issues from general lag, to crashing after logging information and needing to reboot after routine tasks. Computer failures have also led inspectors to miss the sampling of over fifty million pounds of beef even before the shutdown occurred. The implications here are larger than a frustrating frozen computer – the whole system is responsible for the proper inspection of the meat we consume.
Mr. Almanza attributes the inspectors’ complaints to poor internet connections, as many of our country’s processing plants are in the Midwest where internet connectivity is sparser than other parts of the country. However, some inspectors cite training with the program in areas with great connectivity.
The dangers imposed by the FSIS’s new computer system are unacceptable. Before this technology was introduced, there was a manual system in place that was working. The computer system needs to be glitch-free before it is used to aid in the inspection of our meat supply. Demand that the system be recalled and fixed before any serious outbreaks occur.
Dear Mr. Almanza,
The new computer system your organization implemented in 2011 has glitches that pose serious health risks to our nation’s meat supply. When the system recently shut down for two days, it caused millions of pounds of meat to go without inspection before it was shipped out to consumers. This is unacceptable to the public.
A simple solution is to shut the system down until all reported glitches have been fixed across the board. This project was costly and has an admirable goal to more efficiently detect and address possible contaminations of meat, and therefore should be used in the future. However, it should not be implemented prematurely. If inspectors are reporting issues that have caused the improper inspection of meat, the system should be in beta testing and not used before it is ready. Recall the system to address these issues before reintroducing it into the inspection of the meat we consume.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: USDA via Flickr