Sunday, January 3, 2010

USDA takes action against major beef supplier, highlights risk of food containation

A recent New York Times article revealed disturbing information about the safety of beef supplies in the US. Beef Products Inc. supplies meat to a number of fast food chains including McDonalds and Burger King, as well as grocery stores and schools. Eight years ago, the company developed a technique that allowed it to use fatty cuttings from meat, which had previously been limited to use in pet foods and cooking oil because of its increased susceptibility to bacterial contamination, in products intended for human consumption. The technique involved injecting the meat with ammonia, which was thought to kill dangerous pathogens including E. coli and salmonella. The USDA believed the technique to be effective, and exempted Beef Products Inc. from routine testing and inspections.

However, recently uncovered documents have revealed that testing by the USDA's school lunch division, which operates semi-autonomously from the main department, discovered numerous instances of contamination of both E. coli and salmonella. In response to these findings, the USDA revoked its inspection exemption.

These findings highlight the need for increased oversight of food safety. An op-ed in the Des Moines Register last week discussed the shortcomings of the current system of ensuring food safety. Both the House of Representatives and Senate have passed or are considering legislation that would provide more oversight by the USDA and the FDA. Unfortunately, until such measures are passed, the public remains at risk or serious illness or death caused by contaminated food supplies.

No comments:

Post a Comment