Food-Safety Assurance In Question

WASHINGTON - As alarm bells sounded for the second-largest hamburger recall in history, about 250 of the nation's top food-safety officials were in Miami setting the "course for the next 100 years of food safety."
calendar icon 15 October 2007
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"The inspectors are short all the time and getting spread thinner and thinner."

Anonymous inspector.

That so many U.S. Department of Agriculture field supervisors were in Florida while New Jersey-based Topps Meat Co. was scrambling to recall 21.7 million pounds of hamburger has rankled some USDA inspectors and food safety advocates.

Several USDA inspectors said in interviews that their workloads are doubling or tripling as they take on the duties of inspectors who have left the department, not to be replaced.

"We've been short the whole time I've been in," said one veteran inspector who asked not to be named. "We don't have enough inspectors, but we have too much management. The inspectors are short all the time and getting spread thinner and thinner."

The Topps crisis began last month, when three consumers in New York and Florida fell ill from E. coli poisoning. Soon after that, at least 32 people were reported sick. The Topps recall, though, began 18 days after the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service confirmed the presence of E. coli in a Topps hamburger.

Source: BaltimoreSun

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