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Death of Meat Inspector Highlights Conditions at Nation's Slaughterhouses

By       Message Martha Rosenberg       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors in the Department of Agriculture have traditionally been responsible for a plant's compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act (or Poultry Products Inspection Act or the Egg Products Inspection Acts) and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act but the balance of power is switching to self-regulation.   A turning point was the implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) inspection system in 2000 which replaced inspectors' visual examination of carcasses with inspectors simply ratifying that companies are following their own self-created systems--as in "trust me."

 

The HACCP system was developed by former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor, which is no surprise in light of his pro-industry initiatives while working at the government. Taylor facilitated the approval of unlabeled GMO crops and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), both spearheaded by Monsanto, and has even lobbied against the Delaney Clause, which prohibits cancer-causing chemicals in food.

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Food activists, animal activists, consumers and even industry insiders called HACCP "Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray" and an unvarnished a gift to industry. It's a "politically-based policy masquerading as a science-based measure" that privatizes the meat inspection process for large plants while regulating smaller plants out of business. It allows contaminated meat to leave the plant with "smaller downstream processors . . .left accountable for problems caused by the original slaughterhouses," writes Nicole Johnson.

 

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Soon after HACCP was implemented, a study by the Government Accountability Project and Public Citizen found that 62 percent of inspectors surveyed allowed contamination like feces, vomit, and metal shards in food under HACCP on a daily or weekly basis, which had never happened before. Almost 20 percent of inspectors said they'd been instructed not to document violations. In fact, a full 80 percent of 451 inspectors surveyed said that HACCP attenuated their ability to enforce the law and the public's right to know about food safety.

 

Another federal meat inspector who spoke out about the broken system was veterinarian Dean Wyatt. The Food Safety and Inspection Service Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian from Williston, VT testified at Congressional hearings in 2010 about federal inspectors' shocking lack of authority in slaughter plants. Plant managers openly defied the federal inspectors he said and workers followed suit, actually ridiculing them. [i]

 

Both Wyatt and public health veterinarian, Deena Gregory, reported that they witnessed a Seaboard employee hit an, "animal hard in the face and nose 8-12 times," but David Ganzel, DVM, the District Veterinary Medical Specialist, deemed the acts was not "egregious," hence not a violation, said Wyatt in his Congressional testimony. Seaboard employees began to snicker when Wyatt walked past.

 

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Food Safety and Inspection Service officials overtly served plant managers not the government, food consumers, employees or the animals. Dr. Wyatt was instructed not to file violation reports--not to do his job--and official reports were sanitized and deleted. In one report of an employee abusively throwing an animal, the word "threw" was changed to "dropped" he testified.

 

Shortly after testifying to Congress in 2010, Dean Wyatt, DVM, died of brain cancer at the age of 59. He was a second-generation federal meat inspector and told Congress "Public service is in my blood." His father died in the "line of duty," he said, contracting a lethal pathogen at a turkey slaughter plant he inspected. END

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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