The poultry industry is not the only member of the livestock sector facing increased scrutiny over the safety of its products. For years, industry watchdogs and some policy makers have called for a mandatory animal identification system. This week, a coalition of livestock producers headed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association announced the creation of the United States Animal Identification Organization. The non-profit, independent organization has submitted a memorandum of understanding with USDA to form a partnership to create and manage the tracking system. Canada already has an animal identification system in place, but that doesn't mean everyone thinks all Canadian beef is safe. And the list of those sounding the alarm may just include the USDA.
USDA says more than 4.4 (B) billion pounds of Canadian meat and poultry have entered U.S. grocery stores despite U.S. government warnings that Canada isn't doing enough to assure the safety of its food products.
The imports were allowed despite a two-year old warning by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service that public health was at risk.
A report obtained this week by the Associated Press, identified three major concerns with Canadian packing plants:
- Inspections were not done daily at Canadian food processing plants... as required in U.S. plants.
- Canada lacked adequate sanitation controls.
-And inspectors didn't conduct tests for listeria in ready-to-eat products such as hot dogs or deli meats. Listeria can cause food poisoning and even death.
The report also stated, "When officials returned to Canada in 2005, they continued to find the same types of deficiencies they found in 2003."
An official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says they have made changes in an attempt to comply with U.S. rules ... including conducting daily plant inspections since late summer.
However, one critic isn't happy. Iowa Senator Tom harkin, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the USDA seems to have a "make it up as we go" attitude in deciding which country's standards match U.S. standards.
While allowing the Canadian meat imports to continue, the U.S. had halted imports from Australia in June 2004 and Belgium in 2003 because those countries didn't have daily inspections.