Pointing to the tens of thousands of salmonella illnesses linked to poultry products each year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday that the USDA would mobilize "a stronger and more comprehensive effort" to reduce the risk of the disease-causing bacteria in raw poultry meat. The process could include pilot projects that encourage "pre-harvest controls" on the farm, an area not directly under USDA jurisdiction.
Congress may need to intervene to assure the high-level coordination of food safety efforts, said the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday in a report listing three dozen “high-risk” areas throughout the government.
Poultry processors will soon be able to ask the USDA’s meat safety agency for permission to run slaughter lines at up to 175 birds per minute, an increase from the current limit of 140 birds.
The world's largest meat company, JBS, entwined in a corruption scandal in its home country of Brazil, hired as its global food security Al Almanza, who just retired as head of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Organization for Competitive Markets, which focuses on agricultural antitrust issues, called the hiring "the latest of the scandalous job swapping between government and the meat industry."
In less than four months, USDA inspectors rejected 1.9 million pounds of fresh beef from Brazil, a worrisome 11 percent of shipments from that country during that time. Now Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has suspended all Brazilian beef imports, saying, “My first priority is to protect American consumers.”
Following the first shipments of U.S. beef to China in 14 years, the U.S. Dairy Export Council says the United States and China have signed a memorandum of understanding “on dairy trade assurances that will allow more exports from the United States.” At the same time, a consumer group said the United States should not allow China to ship poultry products to America.
Eight months after one USDA agency rescinded its standard for grass-fed beef, a sister agency published a "labeling guideline" — open to public comment for 60 days — that says the term is available only for beef from cattle "that were only (100 percent) fed grass (forage) after being weaned." A small-farm group said the step would "preserve the label's strong reputation."
USDA said it certified four processing plants in China's Shandong Province to cook and ship poultry meat to U.S. customers, the latest step in a decade-old proposal.