Meat Industry Wins Right to Sell Filthy Ground Beef|
Consumer Groups Urge Congress and Bush Administration to Take Steps to Ensure Safety of the Meat Supply
Statement of Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Supreme Beef vs. USDA finds that the current law governing the safety of red meat doesnt permit the Agriculture Department (USDA) to close plants that are producing large amounts of Salmonella-tainted ground beef. While the American Meat Institute says it is gratified by the decision, consumers should be horrified by it.
A government Salmonella test can assess conditions inside a meat grinder that traditional government inspection cant see. This decision removes the governments ability to quickly close meat processors that repeatedly fail to meet limits on harmful bacteria in ground beef.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest and other members of the Safe Food Coalition urge Congress to take prompt action to give USDA authority to enforce the Salmonella standards and to establish testing regimes for such deadly hazards as Listeria and E. coli O157:H7.
Specifically, we ask Congress to:
Without strong government controls, people who eat ground beef face a greater risk of getting sick. The Fifth Circuit decision gives USDA more authority over beetles in the back room than over harmful microbes in the meat supply. That is a giant step backwards for the safety of ground beef.
Consumers should use great care to thoroughly cook all ground beef until it is one hundred and sixty degrees. High-risk consumers (children, elderly and immune-compromised) may want to avoid ground beef products altogether. Such caution is warranted until Congress restores USDAs authority to shut down dirty plants.