Friday, April 12, 2013

Salmonella Nation

Remember when President Obama assured us that no Americans would ever be placed on his Targeted Kill List? Well... not so fast. If he has his way, thousands of us will get sick, even die, from eating tainted eggs, meat and poultry. Michelle Obama's Let's Move program touting healthy diets will morph into Let's Move to get to the bathroom on time.

Even though studies show that at least two-thirds of the chicken sold in this country carry bacteria, President Obama's budget is calling for an unbelievably drastic reduction in USDA poultry inspectors. He apparently thinks that the Wall Street method of self-regulation, which has obviously worked out just fine for defrauded homeowners and looted pension plans, will work just as well for factory farms. He apparently thinks that thousands or millions of  new cases of salmonella a year are the price we must pay in order to have a thriving free market. He apparently has learned no lessons from the hundreds of cases of fungal meningitis caused by that self-regulating compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. 

It's the usual blatant pro-corporate rationale behind most of this administration's deregulatory actions. Firing federal poultry inspectors who protect the public health would actually save only a paltry amount of taxpayer money. But firing poultry inspectors who protect the public health will greatly enhance the bank accounts of the factory farms. Their profits will bloat even faster than a salmonella-infested oven stuffer roaster. The fox-guarding-the-henhouse way of doing business will be taken to a whole new literal level.

Under current procedures, teams of USDA inspectors working at America's poultry plants are now able to examine about 35 chickens a minute as they come flying down the assembly lines. Under Obama's proposal, the reduction in staff would result in a lone token inspector having to examine 175 birds in the same time frame -- a physical impossibility. As a result, the rate of production could potentially increase by five-fold.

Tony Corbo, of the public policy group Food and Water Watch, notes that a pilot program replacing government Agriculture inspectors with self-policing industry employees has already been proven dangerous. Salmonella cases actually increased, and even carcasses bearing obvious fecal contamination were being missed. In an interview with the Real News Network, Corbo said the Obama Administration is well aware of these dire statistics, but is playing fast and loose with the public health anyway:  
I mean, when the administration proposed their regulation, they had a report doing an evaluation of these pilot plants. And it showed the last two years of data that they collected, that the pilot plants had actually higher salmonella rates than the conventionally inspected plants. And lo and behold, just this past month--USDA does a monthly report on the testing that the government does in these plants to test to see if the salmonella rates are either high or low, and two of the pilot plants showed up as failing the salmonella test.
So here's the ultimate irony. The administration keeps on going around and saying that this new model, this new inspection model is going to be able to reduce salmonella, and yet all of the evidence points the other way.
And just as an aside: the Office of Management and Budget, largely responsible for the relentless deregulation frenzy in the Obama Administration, will now be headed by Walmart executive Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Walmart sells a whole lot of chicken. Just sayin'. 

And here we thought Chained CPI represented the ultimate in  cruelty. Not only will we be forced to eat cat food, we'll be forced to eat tainted Walmart cat food.


Will said...

Have no fear, people. I know a couple of gals who would have no problem with 175 birds a minute comin' down the line. Piece of cake. Or shall I say, chocolate?

Denis Neville said...

“Let them eat chicken.”

USDA inspectors receive extensive training to protect public health in poultry facilities. A USDA poultry inspector checks 35 chickens per minute, one every 1.7 seconds.

With USDA inspectors gone, chicken slaughterhouse lines will be able to speed up to upwards of 200 chickens per minute, or three per second.

According to Food and Water Watch, the USDA has been running a pilot project with privatized inspection and line speed waivers in two-dozen slaughter facilities since 1998. USDA inspectors check 20 to 80 randomly selected birds during each shift for defects missed by company inspectors.

Ninety percent of the defects found by the USDA inspectors involved "visible fecal contamination that was missed by company employees." One inspector reported:

“I observed a section of intestine wrapped around the rotating paddles in the neck chiller. The intestine was approximately 1 1/2 feet in length, contained fecal material. Additionally, numerous other pieces [of] digestive tract materials, such as chicken crops and esophagus were also observed in the neck chiller…This regulatory noncompliance would potentially allow for the cross contamination of necks by digestive contents material such as ingesta and/or feces.”

Letting the poultry industry inspect its own slaughterhouse lines, while simultaneously speeding up the kill line,

“The human cost of bringing poultry to your table”

We are all expendable.

Pearl said...

And what about all the chemicals the chickens ingest such as antibiotics, preservatives in their food, maybe growth hormones, etc. When I looked up what chickens ingest in Canada, there was a long list of items that have to be stopped a certain number of days before marketing even though we are supposed to have stricter regulations for less 'chemicalled' chickens than the U.S. Canada also has restrictions on how many chickens are permitted to be raised in order to protect the farmers against dumping and too much competition. Of course we pay for it in high prices but there must be a better way to allow the farmers fair income as well as preventing those on limited budgets from eating chicken.

When I used to eat chicken on my uncles' Connecticut farm that were free range, the taste was very much better than the store bought ones. Same for eggs. In order to produce large quantities of food, we lose some quality and not everyone can get to a farmer's market or a farm to buy fresh produce or chickens directly.

Zee said...

Some 25 years ago or so, I came down with Campylobacter. I have never been so sick in my life as I was during that terrible two-week period.

This is a “reportable” illness here in New Mexico, and so we soon had city and county health officials out testing our water, asking where we had dined out, and looking into our refrigerator and cupboards.

The exact source was never identified, and Mrs. Zee never fell ill herself, but the general source was clear: bad food or bad water, consumed somewhere.

Here is one area—food and water safety—where we need more government spending, not less.

If “balancing” cuts need to be made elsewhere to expand and improve the inspection of our food and water, I nominate the Departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security to absorb them first.