Monday, December 24, 2007

Disaster for Meat Eaters Has Arrived

That great new excuse for advance planning, the "Who Could Have Anticipated" phrase, is popping up in meal planning. The occupied White House that tore up food safety on assumption of office in 2001 by instituting 'voluntary' inspection is discovering that no, left to its own devices industries do not take extraordinary precautions to insure their products are safe. As I have pointed out in earlier posts, we are not being protected because the laws are not in industry's interests.

When it comes to your family's meals, you need to know that the inspection of their food you assumed laws had instituted is no longer on the table.

For beef lovers, 2007 will go down as another year of eating dangerously.

Since the spring, meat suppliers have recalled more than 30 million pounds of ground beef contaminated with the potentially lethal bacteria E. coli O157:H7, including the 21.7 million pounds recalled by New Jersey-based Topps Meat in September.

Topps Meat's 21.7 million-pound recall led some safety advocates to question the USDA inspection system, which relies heavily on industry reporting.

After three relatively quiet years, the 20 recalls this year have raised new doubts about whether the beef industry's attempts to keep the pathogen out of ground beef, and the government's oversight of those efforts, are working.

Agriculture Department officials, who oversee the safety of pork, beef and poultry, say they did not recognize that anything was seriously amiss with the beef supply until the Topps recall hit.

Microbiologists say the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in the environment is highly variable, and no one can say with certainty what caused the spike in outbreaks. In several instances this year, however, USDA officials missed red flags and were slow to correct longstanding deficiencies in the way they monitor beef processors' efforts to contain the pathogen.

USDA officials did not learn that Topps had begun testing its ground beef less frequently until the recall. Recurring sanitation problems at a United Food Group plant in Vernon, Calif., that later recalled 75,000 pounds of ground beef did not trigger further enforcement actions because the agency had not told inspectors what to do about repeat violations. The recall was eventually expanded to 5.7 million pounds. Critics said the agency missed an opportunity to strengthen its early-warning system by not keeping track of every instance when a plant found the dangerous strain of E. coli in raw ground beef.

The department has postponed plans to target inspections at plants that had a record of problems because officials do not know which plants pose the greatest risks.

Similar lapses have surfaced during the seven years since meat processors were required to come up with scientifically based plans to contain and control pathogens. In 2002, USDA officials did not know that the E. coli strain had been detected in ground beef at ConAgra's Greeley, Colo., plant 63 times in the weeks leading up to a massive recall. The agency had been testing for the bacteria in raw ground beef since 1994, but skipped ConAgra's plants under a policy that exempted the largest processors. USDA now tests ground beef at every plant at least once month, while self-testing at plants remains voluntary.

The present practices in regard to regulation recall the days that prompted safety inspections. We are not being protected, we are being sacrificed to the industries that the cretin in chief considers the proper object of government concern. Profits are everything, and the country is hostage to his greed. When any effort is made to put our resources as a nation into those of us who produce them, it is blocked and called anti-American.

There is a growing need to protect the public from those in the highest office. More every day it looks as if many of us won't make it to January 20, 2009 safely.

A government that can't be trusted should be removed.

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