Iowa Public Television


Meat Safety, Production Under Fire

posted on March 14, 2003

The prospect of draconian cuts has alarmed both the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. The two organizations, usually found at opposite ends of the political spectrum say they will fight the cuts. Given the current climate of economic uncertainty the farm lobby doesn't want to see the government lowering safety nets.

In addition to challenges to its fiscal policy, the Bush Administration is also being confronted by the food lobby on several other fronts.


On Wednesday, Elsa Murano, the Agriculture Department's Undersecretary for Food Safety outlined her department's efforts of the past year in ensuring the American people of a safe food supply.

Elsa Murano, Undersecretary for Food Safety, U.S.D.A.: "We have the best production practices in the world."

Despite a food production, processing and distribution system that has been called "the envy of the world," Americans continue to be sickened by their food. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, food borne illnesses impact more than 76 million Americans annually, killing 5,000 and hospitalizing 325,000.

In the wake of food-poisoning outbreaks, U.S. Representative Rosa De Lauro of Connecticut is considering legislation that would force meat companies to inform consumers which stores received possibly tainted meat. Currently no such mandate exists.

Rep. Rosa De Lauro, (D) Connecticut: "Would you support legislation that would allow USDA to tell states if a tainted product has been distributed so that we can inform consumers, make consumers a part of this process? The distributor knows it, the U.S. government knows it, the only folks who are in the dark are the consumers. Yes or no would you support the legislation?"

Elsa Murano: "I wouldn't because we already have that legal authority, we just don't utilize it because it takes days for us to reach a supena that's going to allow us to get that information. "

Murano claims the companies would become less cooperative with the USDA making it harder for the government to track retailers and wholesalers that sold the tainted meat.

Meanwhile the EPA is being criticized by environmentalists as well as the American Farm Bureau, for its final rule on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.

The Sierra Club, The National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, and the Waterkeeper Alliance have filed a lawsuit against the EPA alleging the new standards violate the Clean Water Act by allowing large-scale livestock operations to continue to foul the nation's waterways with animal waste.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "And even though you've been able to buy off the state agencies and the federal agencies and paralyze enforcement, there is a day of reckoning coming. We are going to go after every single one of these operations until they're all in compliance with the law and they can not make money while they're complying with the law under the current way of doing business.

Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims the Bush Administration is putting corporate profits ahead of environmental protection.


Tags: agriculture animals diseases food safety livestock meat news USDA