Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Beef Industry will be the beef cops?

I don't remember what the food safety department is called in the United States, but several years ago they decided to stop doing safety inspections of slaughterhouses - to make sure that various safety procedures were in place - and decided to let the slaughterhouses self police themselves, i.e.
If you see a sick cow heading onto the disassembly line, we trust that you'll pull him off the line, instead of just prodding him on to get the couple hundred bucks his meat is worth!

Even when federal U.S. safety inspectors were on the job, you got horrendous practices like this. When the feds gave over safety inspection responsibility to the slaughterhouses themselves, the problem of downers got worse, and terrible stories like this popped up more.

As a Canadian, why do I care? Well, we're now following the American example. Health Canada is about to stop doing safety inspections at slaughterhouses, in favour of the slaughterhouses doing it themselves. "Now they have to do the inspections and record those inspections. We verify by doing checks. It puts the accountability on the industry."
The accountability is on the industry itself. I think that's great. I completely and fully trust the cattle industry to do a good job with this. To my meat-eating friends, have no worries, your hamburgers are just getting safer and safer.

Another cute thing from this news story is this - the federal government is going to pull the only incentive (besides honesty) that slaughterhouses have to destroy cattle that might have mad cow disease:
Freeman Libby of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday the federal government may change a program brought in during the mad cow crisis in 2003 that pays producers $75 to identify every head of cattle suspected of having bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Now, I realize that it's of no interest to the cattle industry to have their consumers dying off due to mad cow disease, but wouldn't you rather have an iffy call on whether or not a steer has mad cow being made by an food safety official with no conflict of interest in the matter? Rather than the slaughterhouse that just bought a herd of cattle and will get a greater profit for the more cattle they process?

And, let's not forget this other beauty from Health Canada, as described in the CBC Passionate Eye documentary Frankensteer: after sifting through all the research that the European Union had looked at in deciding to ban all North American beef from their market, several Health Canada scientists said "Yes, we agree, there are far too many carcinogens in Canadian beef for it to be considered safe to eat."

What did Health Canada do? They fired the scientists.

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