The U.S. has had no reported cases of foot and mouth disease in well over 70 years. Precautions taken by the government and the livestock industry reduce the potential of an outbreak like the one that has devastated Europe.
To ensure the containment of such an outbreak, the USDA this week announced it would pay farmers fair market value for any livestock destroyed by to control the disease. The hope is the financial assurance will encourage farmers to report any signs of the disease quickly.
It is likely the U.S. livestock industry will remain nervous for much of the summer. And while European livestock disease problems are unrelated, they are lending fuel to groups focused on another industry issue – food safety.
The newly formed coalition of 17 groups is calling itself the Global Safe Food Alliance. In a Washington news conference this week, the alliance said it would focus on traditional food safety themes ... in particular, meat and poultry inspection.
Felicia Nestor, Government Accountability Project: "New inspection methods implemented in the U.S. only a few years ago are the model for the development of global inspection systems. Yet they've failed to stem the tide of recalls and food poisoning tragedies." :13
The coalition says it backed the intent but not the implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HAACP, inspection system. The way in which the rules are employed, it claims, gives meatpackers too much control over inspections.
The group said it will work to ensure slow, safe slaughter lines ... will push for whistleblower protection for USDA meat and poultry inspectors ... and will fight any talk of privatizing the inspection system.
Felicia Nestor: "Consumers know that basing the government seal of approval on company self-inspection and corporate honor systems doesn't pass conflict-of-interest 101, and outside of Washington, this idea doesn't even pass the laugh test." :15
Some of the coalition's food safety concerns center on animal welfare. It cited so-called factory farms in denouncing the manner in which much of the nation's livestock is raised. Critics charge that stressed animals either are diseased or treated so heavily with antibiotics that they are unfit for human consumption.
Gene Bauston, Farm Sanctuary: "The public is growing increasingly concerned about how animals are raised on farms. The fact that McDonald's not too long ago announced that they would require their producers to treat chickens more humanely and also to treat pigs more humanely is, I think, very significant." :17
The coalition said it will continue to expand its grassroots base and hopes to have more than 100 groups as part of its constituency by this time next year.