R-CALF: Group Supports Tester's Meat Safety & Accountability Act

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R-CALF USA wants to publicly thank Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., for introducing his Meat Safety and Accountability Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to trace contaminated meat all the way back to the original source of contamination.

“As it stands now, USDA only traces pathogens such as E. coli back to small mom-and-pop butchers or independent processors, and inspectors simply aren’t allowed to disclose the actual source of the meat being sampled on the same date they collect their test samples, which means that once the test results come back positive for pathogens like E. coli, salmonella or listeria, those inspectors are no longer able to determine the slaughtering plant where the meat in question came from,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

“New regulations of this type are long overdue, but we can be certain that we’ll have a fight on our hands with the big multinational slaughtering plants, which is where intestinal-borne bacteria can contaminate meat if the slaughtering facility is not maintaining adequate sanitary controls,” he continued.

Senator Tester’s proposed legislation was drafted with the help of John Munsell, who serves as the chair of R-CALF USA’s Hazard and Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) Committee. The legislation would require FSIS to trace tainted meat back to the original source of contamination – the facility that actually slaughtered the animal from which the contaminated meat was derived – and would put a halt to the current practice of holding smaller, downstream processors accountable for the unsanitary conditions in upstream slaughtering facilities.

“We believe it’s critically important to the safety of U.S. beef consumers that regulators be forthcoming with information about a pathogen’s origin,” Bullard said. “Currently, the public just continues to see increases in food-borne illnesses without ever having the opportunity to know exactly where the bacteria actually came from.

“Better inspection can only help to restore U.S. consumers’ confidence in beef safety, which must be accomplished in order for the U.S. cattle industry to reverse the current trend in beef demand, which has been declining since 2004,” he pointed out.

“Independent U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers must aggressively support this legislation and demonstrate that the U.S. cattle industry is serious about bringing an end to the ongoing food safety recalls that involve beef,” Bullard concluded. “We will assist Senator Tester to encourage other lawmakers to pass this critical reform of our country’s meat safety laws.”



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