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US Government to Deregulate Meat Industry

Published: March 17, 2014
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Government is increasingly moving to prevent federal meat inspectors from exercising their authority at slaughter plants and instead allowing private industry to regulate itself.  In 1998, the USDA rolled out its trial “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” (HACCP) program.  Noting its deregulatory spirit, meat inspectors and industry watchdogs quickly dubbed it, “Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray.” HACCP intended to replace meat inspectors’ old-fashioned “poke and sniff” method of visually examining carcasses with advanced microbiology techniques. But it is also an “honors system,” where federal inspectors simply ratify companies’ self-regulation.

In October 2013 a coalition of food and worker safety advocates gathered to protest USDA’s plan to implement HACCP across the US after its long-term use at pilot locations. “Instead of trained USDA inspectors, companies will police themselves,” says activist group sumofus.org. “Chickens will spend more time soaking in contaminants and poultry plants are compensating by washing them in chlorine.”

The expansion, HIMP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project), will reduce the number of poultry inspectors while increasing use of antimicrobial sprays to control bacteria. Inspectors would be reassigned to ends of assembly line so they could not intercept unacceptable birds, only view them as they go by. It would also allow only one side of the bird to be examined. Birds once considered unacceptable can now end up remaining on the line, only to be dipped in disinfectants like chlorine to reduce disease risk, say food advocates.

In addition, under the new HACCP/HIMP rules, bruises, scabs, sores, blisters, infections and tumors on chickens will no longer be deemed “Other Consumer Protections” (OCPs) and removed. When half a carcass is “covered with an inflammatory process” it can be “salvaged” for food, an anonymous poultry inspector observes.

Source: Martha Rosenberg, “Get Ready for Extra Helpings of Feces, Pus and Chlorine on Your Plate: America is Deregulating Its Meat Industry,” Alternet.org, October 4, 2013, http://www.alternet.org/food/get-ready-extra-helpings-feces-pus-and-chlorine-your-plate-america-deregulating-its-meat.

Student Researcher: Nikolle Palazzolo (Florida Atlantic University)

Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)

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