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CSPI Urges Food Safety Reform at Meat and Poultry Plants

Bill Introduced Today Would Modernize USDA Update Adulteration Standards

September 12, 2013

Legislation introduced today by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) calls for critically needed reform of federal programs for improving the safety of meat and poultry, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to maintain adequate staffing and increase testing at the facilities that produce beef, pork, and poultry products, and update the agency's adulteration standards to protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In addition to improving safety at plants in the United States, the bill would require FSIS to audit foreign food safety systems at least annually.

"Consumers need to know that food safety inspectors have the tools they need to protect the public from serious illnesses. The Safe Meat and Poultry Act would give inspectors the authority and the resources they need to do their job," said CSPI senior food-safety attorney David Plunkett.

The federal Government Accountability Office recently reported on problems with a USDA proposal to change poultry and pork inspection so that plants could speed up production. CSPI has urged the agency to set aside the proposed changes.

"Speeding up inspection makes USDA look like an agency that is more concerned about boosting corporate profits than protecting consumers from foodborne diseases," Plunkett said. "This legislation would refocus the agency on its primary business of protecting consumers."

A number of provisions to modernize FSIS match the recent modernization of food safety programs at the Food and Drug Administration. For example, the bill gives the Under Secretary of Food Safety authority to recall food. Currently USDA can only ask companies voluntarily to recall meat and poultry products or totally shut plants down.