|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 18, 2005
CONTACT: Public Citizen
Evidence of Weak Meat Inspection Program Found in Nearly a Thousand Violations of Mad Cow Rules at Slaughter Plants
Noncompliance Records Show Plants Failed to Follow Regulations
WASHINGTON - August 18 - In stark contrast to the public relations message touted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the beef industry that the U.S. regulatory system is adequate to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, an analysis released today by the consumer group Public Citizen found significant lapses in the industry’s compliance with federal rules.
The analysis stems from a December 2004 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Public Citizen to the USDA for all “noncompliance records” (NRs) related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Public Citizen received copies of 829 records on Aug. 15.
More than half the violations (460) occurred because slaughter plants did not have an adequate plan for dealing with BSE in their plant’s food safety plan, as required by the USDA, the analysis shows. Of those 460 violations, 60 percent described plans that contained no mention of BSE at all.
“The fact that 60 percent of the violations were due to a failure to even mention BSE or risk materials such as brains and spinal cords is significant,” said Patty Lovera, deputy director of Public Citizen’s food program. “If officials running a meat plant cannot be bothered to recognize the risk of BSE when writing their safety plan, how much of a priority is it in daily operations and training of staff?”
The analysis also found that:
“These enforcement records only increase our concerns about how easily potentially infected cattle are bypassing inspection points at slaughterhouses, creating one more opportunity for infected meat to slip through the system,” said Tony Corbo, legislative representative of Public Citizen’s food program. “We’re approaching the two-year mark of our first case of mad cow in the United States, yet the government is still lagging behind on protecting consumers.”
Public Citizen sent the FOIA request to the USDA in December 2004 after the chairman of the USDA meat inspectors union, Stan Painter, raised concerns about the agency’s policy for ensuring that cattle age is properly determined. Instead of investigating whether the policy was adequate, the agency opened a misconduct investigation on Painter. The investigation was closed this week, shortly after Public Citizen received the documentation, which contained more than 80 records of plants improperly identifying cattle age.