The much maligned USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) seems to be falling down on the job of federal meat inspection:
- Topps frozen hamburgers is going out of business due to the September 25th recall of its meat, which was announced 18 days after USDA authorities recognized an outbreak of E.coli 0157:H7.
- Update: Sam's Club beef patties produced by Cargill have been recalled nation-wide because of E.coli.
While Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) plans to propose an amendment to the farm bill to streamline federal food safety regulation by phasing out the current system in two years, the issue receiving the most attention is interstate shipment of state-inspected meat, which Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) added to the House farm bill and wants to be included in the Senate bill. According to supporters like Peterson, the provision would help smaller meat processors, many of which serve growing niche markets like organic and grass-fed.
Opponents, including Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Food & Water Watch are concerned that the provision will weaken food safety standards, despite the fact that state inspections are required by law to meet the same standards as federal inspection, according to Elanor (a recent Tufts Nutrition Alum) over at the Ethicurean. Boxer has threatened to block the Senate farm bill if this provision, which Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) does not currently have in his bill, is included. More on the debate from Ethicurean and DanOwens at the CFRA.