In a further degradation of food safety standards, the Bush Administration's USDA is now allowing rabbit, cat and dog meat to be mixed with ground beef and sold. Andrew Martin of the Chicago Tribune reports:
A short notice from the United States Department of Agriculture has created a stir-and perhaps a wave of nausea-among the nation’s meat inspectors.
Called “FSIS NOTICE 15-06: Use of Non-Amenable Animal Tissue in Inspected Products,” the notice essentially says that animals that you wouldn’t normally associate with hamburgers can be “included in amenable meat or poultry products produced in official establishments.”
In other words, anything from deer to dog meat can be ground into hamburger, as long as it meets state regulations, which inspectors say tend to be looser than the federal government’s.
Martin asked Steven Cohen, spokesman for the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, if dog meat really could be mixed with beef and sold to consumers across America:
“I don’t believe that it is illegal, but there is no place that is producing dog meat,” Cohen said, adding that the regulation fits a “very limited circumstance. “I don’t think there’s anyone who is doing this on a commercial basis.”
But roadkill wouldn’t qualify because, since the animal wasn’t slaughtered, it would be considered adulterated, he said.
According to Martin, even migratory birds could be added to the mix:
Non-amenable animal tissue, as defined in the notice, is any tissue from animals not subject to inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. It includes edible tissue from exotic animals, rabbits, migratory birds and other animals not under the scope of USDA inspection, like alligator and kangaroo.
This is especially troubling because state inspections are often much weaker than the USDA's – which itself has been weakened by the Bush Administration. With Bird Flu a real threat, allowing the admixture of migratory bird tissue with beef is asking for trouble – big trouble.
And how has this announcement affected the nation's already disheartened Food Inspectors?
News of the notice swept through the community of meat inspectors after one of them sent an email to USDA’s technical support center asking for clarification. In response to a question, Kris Kenne, a USDA staff officer, said someone could mix deer meat with pork and sell deer dogs with a USDA logo as long as the ingredients were labeled and state law allowed it.
Does this also mean that a slaughtered cat or dog can be added to sausage, Kenne was asked?
“Yes, that is a possibility should one wish to pursue to use them as an ingredient in the product. Public perception may not be so acceptable of the practice though,” Kenne responded.…
“Suffice it to say, this is bizarre to inspectors in the field,” said Trent Berhow, president of the Midwest Council of Food Inspectors locals…