Proposed budget cuts can derail hard-fought food safety efforts

When it comes to protecting the nation’s food supply, even after doing specifically what Congress and the Obama White House demanded, neither USDA nor the Food and Drug Administration were spared from cuts in the budget war.

Food-safety activists cringed at the actions of the Republican-led House of Representatives, and President Obama’s budget did not grant additional funds requested to assure the safety of meats and monitor foreign-produced food arriving at our ports. Programs for federal meat inspection, international food-safety inspection and state food-safety inspection were hit hard, safety experts told me last week.

“We are cutting programs not because we want to, but because we have to,” said Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, adding, “American families have been forced to tighten their belts and government must do the same.”

Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food & Water Watch told me that the cuts make no sense and she points to an expected 500-million-pound increase in the amount of beef and poultry slaughtered this year.

“The President cuts the resources for meat inspection, even while admitting that USDA inspectors will have an increased amount of meat and poultry to inspect next year. It also fails to give the FDA enough resources to put the newly passed food safety reform bill into effect on schedule,” she said.

USDA rules say that meat cannot be released for market without the presence of a USDA inspector.

Without the funding, the agency has no plans to supplement the number of inspectors in these processing plants to handle the higher volume of meat.

This means that the speed of slaughter lines will increase, as will pressure on already overworked inspectors. The obvious result is the likelihood of bad meat and poultry showing up groceries and butcher shops, said FWW executive director Wenonah Hauter.

Here is a link to the story I wrote for AOL News that looked at the danger of several other budget cuts.

–Andrew Schneider


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