Bad Meat: The Scandal of Our Food Safety System. (Comment)

By Schlosser, Eric | The Nation, September 16, 2002 | Go to article overview

Bad Meat: The Scandal of Our Food Safety System. (Comment)


Schlosser, Eric, The Nation


In a summer full of headlines about corporate misdeeds and irresponsibility, ConAgra's massive recall in July stands apart. The defective product wasn't fiber optic cable, energy futures or some esoteric financial instrument. It was bad meat--almost 19 million pounds of beef potentially contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, enough to supply a tainted burger to at least one-fourth of the US population. Unlike other prominent scandals, this one does not seem to involve any falsification of records, shredding of crucial documents or deliberate violation of the law. And that makes it all the more disturbing. The Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress have allowed the meatpacking industry to gain control of the nation's food safety system, much as the airline industry was given responsibility for airport security in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks. The deregulation of food safety makes about as much sense as the deregulation of air safety. Anyone who eats meat these days should be deeply concerned about what our meatpacking companies now have the freedom to sell.

At the heart of the food safety debate is the issue of microbial testing. Consumer advocates argue that the federal government should be testing meat for dangerous pathogens and imposing tough penalties on companies that repeatedly fail those tests. The meatpacking industry, which has been battling new food safety measures for almost a century, strongly disagrees. In 1985 a panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences warned that the nation's meat inspection system was obsolete. At the time USDA inspectors relied solely on visual and olfactory clues to detect tainted meat. After the Jack in the Box outbreak in 1993, the Clinton Administration announced that it would begin random testing for E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. The meatpacking industry promptly sued the USDA in federal court to block such tests.

E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen involved in both the Jack in the Box outbreak and the recent ConAgra recall, can cause severe illness or death, especially among children, the elderly and people who are immuno-suppressed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 73,000 Americans are sickened by E. coli O157:H7 every year. An additional 37,000 are sickened by other dangerous strains of E. coli also linked to ground beef. At a slaughterhouse these pathogens are spread when manure or stomach contents get splattered on the meat.

The USDA won the 1993 lawsuit, began random testing for E. coli O157:H7 and introduced a "science-based" inspection system in 1996 that requires various microbial tests by meatpacking companies and by the government. The new system, however, has been so weakened by industry opposition and legal challenges that it now may be less effective than the old one. Under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans that now regulate production at meatpacking plants, many food safety tasks have been shifted from USDA inspectors to company employees.

In return for such concessions, the USDA gained the power to test for salmonella and to shut down plants that repeatedly failed those tests. Salmonella is spread primarily by fecal material, and its presence in ground beef suggests that other dangerous pathogens may be present as well. In November 1999, the USDA shut down a meatpacking plant for repeatedly failing salmonella tests. The Texas company operating the plant, Supreme Beef Processors, happened to be one of the leading suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. With strong backing from the meatpacking industry, Supreme Beef sued the USDA, eventually won the lawsuit and succeeded this past December in overturning the USDA's salmonella limits. About 1.4 million Americans are sickened by salmonella every year, and the CDC has linked a nasty, antibiotic-resistant strain of the bug to ground beef. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bad Meat: The Scandal of Our Food Safety System. (Comment)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.