Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post has written an article today, October 11, 2013 regarding the recall of furloughed USDA food inspectors so that they can provide more intense inspection of poultry processor, Foster Farms.
Foster Farms is a food processor located in California, which is good for us living in Ohio. In a letter obtained by CNN from the USDA that was addressed to Foster Farms, the USDA has stated that
“your establishment has had multiple regulatory non-compliances issued for insanitary conditions.”
The latest outbreak of salmonella from Foster Farms chicken products was mainly in California, Oregon and Washington, but the total outbreaks of salmonella from this latest contamination has been seen in 17 states.
The USDA issued a similar warning against the Pacific Northwest operation of Foster Farms earlier in 2013. The company stated that the Pacific Northwest operation has not had any recent incidents.
While the USDA has the authority under the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to immediately shutdown the plants, Foster Farms’ operations in California have been allowed to remain open. FSIS has threatened to pull the USDA inspectors, which would prohibit the plant from shipping their products, if conditions don’t get better.
The larger issue is that the USDA has proposed a cost-cutting approach that will allow food processors to “self-inspect”. Reducing or eliminating food process inspectors is one more example of making cuts to federal spending in critical areas that directly impact the safety of our food supply.
The temporary federal shutdown did not cause the problems at Foster Farms. The FSIS inspectors knew there were food safety issues in the California plants. The inspectors did not act to prevent the salmonella contamination from impacting a large area of the western US. Issues at these plants and other Forster Farms locations were known, but did not result in a major response by Foster Farms or the USDA.
The UDSA has promised that there will be increased scrutiny of the California plants for the next three months. Foster Farms has brought in a food safety expert to improve food safety compliance. This is all good. What happens when the three months of increased inspection expire?
Given that our vegetables and grains are polluted by genetic modification and pesticides, becoming a vegan is not a refuge from polluted meat products. We are being threatened on all sides by the foods that we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
The USDA has the specific charter to protect all of our food sources,but it is not the only government agency that is failing to protect our food and water from pollution and dangerous chemicals and organisms. The EPA is another agency under pressure to relax air and water standards to help businesses remain profitable.
When all of the smoke clears from the temporary shutdown, it is time to really pay attention to where our tax dollars are being spent. We need to wake up and let those in Congress know that we care about our food safety, or water purity, and our air quality.