Food  
comments_image Comments

American Meat Is Even Grosser Than You Thought

In the focus on E. coli and salmonella, meat contaminated by heavy metals, veterinary drugs and pesticides has been slipping through the bureaucratic cracks.

Continued from previous page

 
 
Share
 
 
 

In addition to veterinary drugs and heavy metals, agricultural pesticides also find their way into the meat supply, often through contaminated food and water. While the SAT agencies jointly determine which pesticides should be tested for, it's the FSIS that actually conducts the tests. In recent years the FSIS has tested for only one of the 23 pesticide classes it is charged with testing for: chlorinated hydrocarbons/chlorinated organophosphates. FSIS blames its limited budget and a lack of guidance as to minimum levels the agency is supposed to enforce. The Office of the Inspector General report dismisses the excuses and calls the oversight unacceptable, saying "the SAT needs to seek executive-level involvement from all three agencies to resolve differences, and, if necessary, to determine the best method for obtaining the needed testing resources to ensure that the highest priority substances are tested."

Several other chinks in the food supply's armor are noted as well, including faulty testing methodologies, bureaucratic smothering of innovative testing techniques, and failure of FSIS to share testing results. After raking the muck, the report makes recommendations on how the interagency collaborations behind the SAT could be improved. The report also mentions that the FSIS has agreed to many of its recommendations, such as increasing testing at plants that slaughter veal calves and dairy cows--where 90 percent of the residue violations have been detected.

While the Office of the Inspector General appears to be making a sincere effort to improve the framework that's supposed to protect our food, it could also be argued that these efforts amount to enabling an industry that remains rotten at its core. Rushing sick cattle to slaughter before they die, or feeding tainted "waste milk" to veal calves, are practices that would be better eliminated than improved, but in fairness that isn't within the mandate of the OIG to decide. So while improvements appear to be in the works for the production practices behind mystery meat and mystery milk, the system shows little sign of becoming inherently less disgusting. As long as customers keep demanding cheap meat, cheap meat will probably continue to be produced.

Ari LeVaux writes a syndicated weekly food column, Flash in the Pan.

 
See more stories tagged with: