American Meat Institute Responds to Questions About Industry Support of Federal Oversight

Friday, February 22, 2008
 

“The U.S. meat industry has operated under continuous federal inspection since 1906 when the Federal meat inspection system was created. The USDA seal on our products means that the animals from which meat is derived were inspected by a veterinarian and that meat inspectors oversaw production, ensuring compliance with federal rules throughout the process. This inspection is an essential part of ensuring consumer trust in our products. Such intense oversight is unique to our industry. No other industry in agriculture or in other industries, from health care to auto manufacturing, has inspectors on site at all times.Over the years, the inspection system has been augmented and updated as new challenges, new information and new technology have emerged. Throughout it all, the meat industry has been an advocate for science-based rules that ensure that we meet consumer expectations that meat is safe and derived from humanely treated livestock. A clear examination of the facts will show that we have a documented record of working with USDA to ensure food safety advancement. We also have gone beyond simply meeting federal requirements and have developed research and education programs that have yielded real results, and best practices that are widely endorsed in the U.S. and around the world.Claims that we are not regulated heavily enough or that inspection oversight is lacking are simply outrageous. We benefit from the oversight we receive. We will not let a video from what appears to have been a tragic anomaly stand as the poster child for our industry. ”Following are some examples of the meat industry’s inspection and food safety advocacy efforts:• In 1991, AMI launched a HACCP training initiative to educate the industry about the use of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans and their benefits. HACCP was developed by the space program to make food safe for astronauts.• In 1994, based upon our very positive experience with HACCP, we petitioned USDA to make HACCP mandatory in every meat and poultry plant. USDA mandated HACCP implementation beginning in1998. Contrary to some reports, HACCP was added to existing inspection requirements that every carcass be inspected. It did not replace those procedures. • In 1994, we also petitioned FDA to permit irradiation on meat and poultry products as an additional food safety tool. In 1997, we reiterated our request because of the government’s failure to respond. • In 1998, we traveled to 20 cities throughout the country to offer free HACCP training to members of the industry.• Also in 1999, we began a research and training “Food Safety Initiative.” We have spent millions to reduce and ultimately eliminate key pathogens on meat and poultry products. • In 1999, we launched a training program for Listeria control in plants. Since that time, more than 1,000 people have been trained in 15 different workshops.• In 1999, we advocated increased federal meat safety research funding and we have done so every year thereafter.• In 2000, we launched a training program for E. coli prevention.• In 2001, the American Meat Institute Board of Directors voted to make food safety a “non-competitive” issue. As a result of that vote, our members share information freely to help everyone in the industry make meat as safe as it can possibly be. • In late 2003, after the first case of BSE was diagnosed within U.S. borders, AMI supported federal efforts to strengthen BSE firewalls.• We successfully implemented new Listeria rules in 2004. We interacted with the agency during the rulemaking process and provided data to help them write the most effective regulation possible. • In 2007, we cautioned USDA against proceeding too quickly on Risk-Based Inspection because we believed that reducing inspection oversight in any of our plants could reduce confidence in the products we produce.In the area of animal care and handling, the U.S. meat industry has taken many proactive steps, including: • In 1991, AMI partnered with Temple Grandin, Ph.D., then a rising star in animal welfare, to develop the first-ever guidelines for animal welfare in the meat packing industry. • In 1997, AMI asked Dr. Grandin to develop an audit program for the meat industry. The audit, which may be viewed on www.animalhandling.org, was released and quickly embraced as a condition of doing business by many restaurant and grocery chains.• In 1999, AMI launched the first animal welfare conference for the meat industry. That conference has been held 10 times since it was launched and is the essential training conference for the meat industry.• In 2002, the AMI Board voted to make animal welfare a non-competitive issue to encourage sharing of animal welfare ideas and innovations that help the industry.• In 2005, in the acknowledgements of her New York Times bestseller Animals in Translation, Dr. Temple Grandin thanked AMI writing “…AMI and the entire Animal Welfare Committee have supported my work on the Institute’s guidelines, which are now being used by restaurant chains to audit welfare.”• In 2007, AMI proudly detailed for Congress the progress that has been made in animal care and handling in meat plants thanks to industry’s proactive partnership with Dr. Grandin.• Most recently, in 2008, AMI condemned a video depicting inhumane treatment of livestock at a California plant because it stands in sharp contrast to industry practices and typical animal handling in meat plants in the United States.

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