Food Inspectors Needed!

The Lempert Report
March 14, 2014

The nation’s meat and poultry plants have some positions to fill, and are hoping to do so soon.

According to a top inspectors’ union official and a food safety group, the nation’s meat and poultry plants have some positions to fill, and are hoping to do so soon so as not to raise the possibility of contaminated products reaching consumers.

Recently the agency requested a recall of nearly nine million pounds of beef  that was processed at the Rancho Feeding Corporation in Petaluma, Calif. Apparently the meat was shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments nationwide, without having received a full federal inspection. According to the inspectors union official the lack of inspectors was likely partly to blame here.

According to recent data from the Agriculture Department in the Raleigh, N.C., district, for example, the vacancy rate for inspector positions is 11 percent. An obvious ripple effect from this is that the remaining inspectors have a hugely increased workload.

And why is this happening? One speculation is that a new poultry inspection program at the Agriculture Department is a cause. Here poultry plant employees to do inspections on the processing lines, rather than more thoroughly trained Agriculture Department inspectors. Agriculture Department inspectors are then only stationed at the end of the line for a final check on meat before it is shipped.

The change, which is scheduled to expand to other plants, could eliminate 800 inspectors positions. However,  Alfred Almanza, administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the Agriculture Department, spoke to Food Chemical News  and said the new poultry inspection program was not having a negative impact on the inspection staff.

 Either way, the pressure is now on Secretary Tom Vilsack to withdraw the proposed rule on poultry inspection, and return to a normal hiring policy and attract good candidates to protect the food supply.