This summer, almost 6 million pounds of beef were recalled due to E. coli contamination. Last week, almost 22 million pounds of frozen hamburger meat were recalled after reports surfaced of E. coli infections. It was the biggest meat recall in 10 years, and “the American Meat Institute (AMI) says it noticed a slight rise in positive E. coli tests by the government this summer,” says a USA Today article. In fact, 2007 is the first time in 3 years that the rate of positive USDA sample-tests have gone up. At the same time, the Chicago Tribune reports that in July, a congressman from Minnesota slipped a special measure into the 2007 farm bill that would reduce the need for federal inspections for small meat producers.
The Chicago Tribune writes that “the requirement for a USDA inspection and stamp on meat that will be sold interstate hampers sales for smaller meat processors, according to beef industry advocates,” and that the state of Minnesota feels its own state inspection procedures are equal to the those of the FDA. However, not all states have quality inspection procedures, or any at all.
The union that represents federal meat inspectors has argued against the measure:
“[It] would seriously endanger food safety by weakening the USDA federal meat and poultry inspection program and by increasing reliance on the more lenient, institutionally weaker state inspection programs — at a time when our nation’s food supply is subject to increased risks from both accidental and intentional adulteration.”
Over the weekend, the Topps recall was expanded to include a full year’s worth of meat production—”an unusually long time frame — after USDA inspectors found that the plant lacked appropriate controls regarding beef carried over from one day’s production to the next.”
“Meat recalls point to possibility threat is growing” [USA Today]
“Bill would reduce meat inspections” [Chicago Tribune]