I Wonder When the US Will Take Food Safety Seriously

NYT article on e. coli and ground beef exposes lots of repulsive practices in the meat industry but of particular interest to me was the info on page 2. The NYT tried to get details on Cargill’s grinding practices via a Freedom of Information Act request but the USDA redacted info from those docs to protect Cargill. The Times eventually got the unredacted docs from other sources. If our tax dollars are being used to fund agencies who look out for the interests of corporations, who is protecting consumers?

Another noteworthy bit: Cargill is careful about inspecting meat for metal pieces because nails and metal hooks might damage their grinders. But checking for e. coli before putting meat through the grinders – meh. When the bacteria is discovered later in the process, Cargill can honestly say they don’t know the source because they buy from multiple slaughterhouses (and countries) and don’t test before grinding everything together. If you happen to become gravely ill from a Cargill product, as Ms. Smith (the woman in this story) did, well – sucks being you.

The U.S.D.A. found that Cargill had not followed its own safety program for controlling E. coli. For example, Cargill was supposed to obtain a certificate from each supplier showing that their tests had found no E. coli. But Cargill did not have a certificate for the Uruguayan trimmings used on the day it made the burgers that sickened Ms. Smith and others.

After four months of negotiations, Cargill agreed to increase its scrutiny of suppliers and their testing, including audits and periodic checks to determine the accuracy of their laboratories.

It took 4 months of negotiations to get Cargill to agree to “increase its scrutiny of suppliers” of their incoming meat but they still won’t test it. Meanwhile, Ms. Smith fights to stay alive:

Her kidneys are at high risk of failure. She is struggling to regain some basic life skills and deal with the anger that sometimes envelops her. Despite her determination, doctors say, she will most likely never walk again.

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