American Consumers Should Support Interstate Meat Sales Legislation
The Consumer Federation and American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) are urging Congress to oppose legislation which would allow state-inspected meat and poultry to be sold in the national marketplace. Their statements are simply wrong and their opposition is based on false and unsubstantiated claims.
Consumers can be confident that meat and poultry products processed in the United States under federal or state inspection are safe, wholesome and unadulterated.
Despite the Consumer Federation and AFGE’s attempts to create unsubstantiated doubts about food safety, the real issue is the need for Congress to pass legislation that will level the economic playing field for American small businesses and processors. American consumers deserve greater access to safe, nutritious products from state-inspected meat and poultry processors. And American livestock producers deserve more entrepreneurial marketing opportunities.
The Consumer Federation and AFGE statement that new Farm Bill legislation would “lower food safety standards” is simply not true.The legislation actually requires additional safeguards and rules for state inspection programs to adopt the same federal inspection requirements. In reality, many states already impose inspection requirements that are more stringent than USDA. The Consumer Federation and AFGE’s attempt to create doubts about food safety is based solely on their one-sided opinion—not facts—and they offer no credible evidence for their claims. Their arguments are even more undercut by the fact that there has never been a documented food-borne illness from state-inspected meat and poultry products.
Ironically, the Consumer Federation testified in support of this same interstate meat legislation during a Senate hearing in April 2000. Why have they reversed their position now—especially when state inspection programs are now being held to higher standards than before?
Our locally-produced, state-inspected meats are some of the best, high quality specialty products in the country. They are mostly small, family-owned businesses who make popular and award-winning products such as bratwurst, beef jerky, smoked sausages, and other regional meat products. The Consumer Federation and AFGE statements are puzzling at a time when many Americans are concerned about imported food products that are increasingly coming into our country.
Meat and poultry from 38 foreign countries—such as Croatia and Nicaragua—can be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the United States. Meat and poultry imports from foreign countries have increased significantly—from nearly 2.3 billion pounds presented for inspection in 1996, to 4.3 billion pounds in 2005. USDA has estimated that it physically examined approximately 20% of all such imports in 1996, yet only9.7% in 2005. Furthermore, the White House Interagency Working Group on Import Safety recently released a report which cites deficiencies in USDA’s import inspection data system for tracking shipments of foreign meat and poultry. Aren’t the Consumer Federation and AFGE pointing in the wrong direction about bona fide food safety concerns?
State-inspected products compose 10% of the red meat consumed in the United States. By comparison, imported meat products compose 20% of the red meat consumed in our country—twice the amount of state-inspected meat sold and consumed. The Consumer Federation and AFGE seem to have more confidence in the foreign inspection systems—which do not have nearly the same scrutiny that state inspection programs undergo and at our borders. At a time when many Americans are concerned about imported foods that are increasingly coming into our country, it is rediculous that domestic producers, processors and businesses cannot market and sell their premium products across state lines.
Here are the facts:
- Each state inspection program is required to comply with and implement all federal food safety and consumer protection laws, regulations and requirements—more than 80 in total.
- There has never been a documented food-borne illness from state-inspected meat and poultry products.
- To ensure compliance, each state inspection program is annually audited by USDA. The audit document is more than 125 pages of instructions, regulations, and procedures that state plants must comply with.USDA’s audit document for evaluating foreign inspection systems is a one-page checklist. Importing countries do not have the frequency or scrutiny that state inspection programs undergo.
- USDA’s January 2007 “Review of State Programs,” which was a special review required by the 2002 Farm Bill, once again certified that state inspection programs are “at least equal to” federal inspection requirements.
- USDA’s assessment and audit data continues to show that state inspection programs are highly effective and provide consumers with a wholesome, unadulterated food product that is properly labeled and safe.
As stated above, the Consumer Federation and AFGE are attempting to create unsubstantiated doubts about food safety—the real issue is the need for Congress to pass legislation that will level the economic playing field for American small businesses and processors. American consumers deserve greater access to safe, nutritious products from state-inspected meat and poultry processors. And American livestock producers deserve more entrepreneurial marketing opportunities.
The Consumer Federation and AFGE should support interstate legislation because it will create a more uniform inspection system—and this is good for American consumers, producers and businesses.