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USDA favors meat, poultry producers over health concerns

A class of antibiotics typically used to treat pneumonia in cattle will soon be under greater restriction, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In order to protect the effectiveness of the drug cephalosporins in humans, certain uses are prohibited in cattle, chickens, turkeys and swine. (Photo by Dave Wild, NASA)

(Photo by Dave Wild, NASA)

According to the lead story in (the Sept. 9 edition of) The Washington Post, the meat inspection program that the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to roll out in meat and poultry plants nationwide has repeatedly failed to stop production of contaminated meat. The program allows meat producers to increase the speed of processing lines and replace USDA safety inspectors with their own employees.

But plants operating under this program have experienced some of the worst health and safety violations that include failure to remove fecal matter and partly digested food, according to USDA inspector general. These contaminants may contain complex strains of deadly E. coli and listeria.

Traditionally, USDA has catered more to the interests and profitability of the meat industry than health and safety concerns of American consumers. Consumer interests come into play only when large numbers of us get sick. Having the USDA protect consumers is like asking the fox to guard the chicken house.

The Obama administration must reallocate responsibility for consumer safety to the Food and Drug Administration. In the meantime, each of us must assume responsibility for our own safety by switching to the rich variety of plant-based meats offered in local supermarkets.

— Armando Reed lives in Phoenix.

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