USDA pilot program increases processing line speed but fails to stop contaminated meat
USDA program results in a 20 percent increase of processing lines and reduces the number of inspectors needed at each plant in one half, but after more than a decade most of the five American hog premises that adopted the program were among the worst offenders in the country for health and safety violations. The plant with the wost record by far is one of the five involved in the pilot program.
One of the main problems was a flaw in removing effectively fecal matter from meat. Fecal matter may contain concentrated and complex strains of bacterium such as E. coli and listeria, which can be deadly.
The USDA has permitted other countries such as Canada or Australia to use an equivalent process for red meat plants. Their plants using the same kind of process have experienced equivalent problems.
In the pork premises involved in the pilot program the contaminated meat remained in the plants because it did not pass the inspections. In the case of imported beef, mouton and goat from the canadian or australian plants every contaminated shipment was stopped at US ports. But it supposed a significant amount in product recalls.
The USDA plans to complete its evaluation of the pilot program by the spring and it hopes after that to propose rules for expanding the inspection system to the whole nation.
The USDA has enrolled dozens of chicken plants in a similar pilot program. The USDA plans to finalize regulations this year and start the procedures to use them in all chicken and turkey plants.
If the flaws were part of the testing detection system were genuine errors or that denote a design error in the pilot program is something we will not know, but anyway the program is generating a lot of controversy.