You might not have been able to stomach the New York Times front page piece on tainted beef – I mean that literally, by the way, I almost vomited a couple of times. But make it through I did, and I thought I’d share one of my favorite quotes with those of you whose constitutions are weaker. The USDA has tried to introduce a guideline that urged, but did not require, testing of beef products that are combined and sold as burger patties or other ground beef products. The industry balked, I guess figuring that its spotty testing of the finished product had only paralyzed one person and was thus acceptable.
In an October 2008 letter to the department, the American Association of Meat Processors said the proposed guideline departed from U.S.D.A.’s strategy of allowing companies to devise their own safety programs, ‘thus returning to more of the agency’s “command and control” mind-set.'”
So that’s pretty galling, right? The idea that the people who are responsible for the safety of our nation’s meat might actually suggest steps to ensure the safety of our nation’s meat supply? Who do those bastards think they are? It gets better:
Dr. Kenneth Petersen, an assistant administrator with the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that the department could mandate testing, but that it needed to consider the impact on companies as well as consumers. ‘I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health,’ Dr. Petersen said.”
I don’t think Dr. Petersen has looked at his letterhead lately. THE FOOD SAFETY AND INSPECTION SERVICE is not “just” looking at what’s best for public health! You might wonder who is “just” taking care of public health when it comes to the meat industry. If you figure it out, get back to the rest of us.
I stopped eating mass-produced beef after reading about the little boy who brain was liquefied by a Jack-in-the-Box burger back in 1994. Sure, I’ve slipped a few times (damn you, Five Guys!), but for the most part, I’ve stuck with it and am one of those evil, evil moms who refuses to stop at McDonald’s. But goldurn if I can figure out why the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service considers the alleged needs of the industry it regulates more important than public health. Maybe we need a group that isn’t responsible for both the safety of our agricultural products and their promotion. Certainly we need government regulators who are allowed to actually regulate the industries they regulate. Apparently – like wanting affordable meat that’s free of fecal matter – that’s too much to ask.