AMI Cites the Ups and Downs of US Meat Inspection

US - The U.S. meat and poultry regulatory and inspection system is working to ensure safe food, though it can be improved further, according to American Meat Institute Executive Vice President Jim Hodges, who addressed the Farm Foundation today in Washington, D.C.
calendar icon 8 April 2009
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“A common refrain heard in Washington and other venues is the U.S. food safety regulatory system is broken and that it has failed the American people. There is some truth to that argument, but a closer look at our meat and poultry food safety systems may yield a different conclusion,” Hodges said.

Hodges told the audience that foodborne illnesses associated with meat and poultry consumption have declined markedly and noted that roughly a billion meals are consumed safely each day in the United States.

As context, he told the audience that human illness statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the pathogens most commonly associated with meat and poultry make up only a fraction of the total foodborne illnesses and deaths in the U.S.

“I cite these illness statistics not to minimize each and every illness, hospitalization or death associated with food consumption, but to put the risk into context,” he said. “Is the sky falling? No. Still, most rational individuals, including myself, believe food safety can be improved.”

According to Hodges, USDA’s meat and poultry inspection system, run by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is strong with 8,000 inspectors overseeing approximately 6,300 domestic meat and poultry operations. Plants processing animals are inspected during all hours the plant is operating. Plants preparing meat and poultry products are inspected at least daily. An additional 2,000 federal employees provide supervision and support services at a total cost of more than $1 billion dollars.

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