Mexico Voluntarily Stops Exporting Meat After USDA Audit Reveals 'Systemic' Food Safety Problems at NAFTA Slaughterhouses
Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director
WASHINGTON - "Mexico finally curbed exports of meat and poultry products from meatpacking plants with widespread safety problems, after weeks of diplomatic wrangling with American food safety regulators. A USDA audit of 11 Mexican meat plants found nearly two thirds had systemic safety problems including inadequate sanitation and government inspection procedures.
"Despite the audit findings, USDA did not immediately act to shut down the border to meat from a broken Mexican food safety system. Food & Water Watch raised concerns that exports from Mexico had not been suspended because of the on-site findings with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials on August 26 and during the meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection on August 27 and 28.
"While we are pleased that the Mexican government decided to suspend its exports voluntarily on August 29, USDA should have taken more decisive action to protect American consumers from unsafe meat imports. The United States only imports meat from countries and companies that are certified to operate under systems that are equivalent to U.S. food safety standards. The USDA Office of Inspector General has issued two recent audit reports that question how well FSIS enforces equivalency agreements with countries that are eligible to export meat and poultry products to the United States.
"To ensure American consumers are protected from unsafe imported food, clear criteria must be established and enforced to stop imports from countries whose food safety regulatory systems are dangerously inadequate."