“CSPI Applauds Congressional Wake-Up Call to Foreign Governments and USDA on Imported Meat Safety”

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Statement of Benjamin Cohen, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on Congress’s Ordering USDA to Submit New Quarterly Reports on Its Enforcement of the Imported Meat and Poultry Safety Laws

Today the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) applauded Congress for telling the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to submit quarterly reports on its enforcement of the laws regarding the safety of imported meat and poultry. With this action, Congress is giving a “wake-up” call to both foreign governments and the USDA that the USDA should immediately and vigorously enforce U.S. laws requiring imported meat and poultry to be as safe as domestic meat and poultry.

     This Congressional action, part of the FY 2000 appropriations bill for USDA that Congress has approved and the President is expected to sign, comes on the heels of charges by CSPI that the USDA is not complying with all the requirements of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

     In a response letter to CSPI, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Caren A. Wilcox, acknowledged that the USDA is still in the process of reviewing documents supplied by 36 foreign governments to determine whether their meat and poultry inspection systems provide as much protection from Salmonellabacteria as the U.S. inspection system. Imported meat and poultry continues to flow into the U.S. while the USDA conducts this review.

     Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea and systematic infections that can be fatal to infants, very young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems.