Dear Editors,


Marian Burros’ piece from the July 10 New York Times, “Federal Audit Faults Department’s Meat and Poultry Inspection System,” is unfortunately as riddled with problems as she claims the inspection system to be.  Rather than describing a program that is “not working to protect the public from bacterial hazards in meat and poultry,” the GAO’s report picks up the findings of the Agency’s own investigative arm, the Food Safety Systems Correlation (FSSC) team. The fact that these problems were pinpointed by the Agency itself suggests that it is already on its way to repairing them.


Burros makes much of the fact that FSIS has been slow to follow up on results of the Salmonella Performance Standard. These delays are easily understood.  The Standard has been severely questioned since before it was implemented and was almost immediately shot down in court as an inappropriate measurement of sanitation.


None of this is to suggest that the Draft GAO report is without merit. When it says that meat inspectors suffer from a lack of training it is only repeating the criticism the industry has long voiced. Still and all, it hardly equals the harsh presentation that Burros gives it.  Most unfortunate of all is her reference to statistics showing “a general increase in problems.”  Observers will note that she has deftly selected some of the only statistics which show backsliding and ignored a host of information from USDA, CDC and others that show just the opposite.


Jeremy Russell

Director of Communications

National Meat Association