A consumer rights advocacy group wants to add a strange label to meats at the grocery store: this product “may contain feces.”
According to Deborah Press, an attorney for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the recommendation is tongue-in-cheek. The group represents 12,000 physicians, and it’s mission is to promote plant-based diets and ethical scientific research.
While the statement may be somewhat humorous, PCRM has genuine issues with US Department of Agriculture’s food safety inspection system.
The USDA states they have a “zero tolerance policy for fecal material on meat and poultry.”
The USDA revealed its inspection process. They send inspectors to facilities and examine “statistically valid sample of carcasses randomly selected throughout the production shift.”
If fecal material is found on an animal carcass, the contaminated meat is not allowed to enter the food supply. If inspectors observe continuous infractions, the FSIS uses “progressive enforcement actions” against the meat company.
Press doesn’t believe the USDA’s current inspection policy is good enough. She states it only applies to fecal matter that’s “visible” on the production line, and that inspectors are not always careful when they inspect meat.
Recently, PCRM filed a lawsuit to try to make the USDA take notice of the issue.
Despite the group’s questions, the government isn’t giving then straight answers about food inspection procedures.
The PCRM tested chicken products sold in supermarkets, and they found that 48% of the products tested positive for fecal contamination. The petition also stated that “more than half of the packages of raw ground meat and patties tested positive for fecal bacteria.”
The USDA hasn’t responded to the petition.
PCRM’s lawsuit accuses the USDA of violating the Freedom of Information Act because they refused to respond to the request about fecal contamination rates. Federal law requires that agencies respond to FOIA requests within 20 days.
Press said going to court will be difficult, but she remains positive..
“‘The Jungle’ came out in 1904,” she said. “At that time, there was no federal oversight” of food manufacturing. Theodore Roosevelt demanded action in the meat industry after reading a novel.
In 1906, Congress passes the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act. Press is hopes that PCRM can push for improvements in food safety.