May 11, 1998

Dan Glickman, Secretary

United States Department of Agriculture

Washington, DC 20250


Dear Mr. Secretary:

When we met with you recently we believed, based on your expressed views, that we shared a common goal: To re-build the confidence of American and International Consumers in meat products through working cooperatively with you and your staff.

The publication last week of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Quarterly Regulatory and Enforcement Report for January 1, 1998 to March 31, 1998 suggests that the actions of the Department are not in accord with your stated objective of building consumer confidence.

First, a very detailed report that measures the success of the inspection program in numbers of product detentions and plant closings undermines consumer confidence. It is a story of "food buyer beware" that simply frightens consumers. It gives no credit to the tremendous advances in technology and improved sanitary practices that have been implemented by the industry working cooperatively with your Department, and the industry’s huge and often unseen investment in equipment, processing technology and training. Why is FSIS not using science-based data such as microbiological (generic E. coli and Salmonella) testing to support plant performance as compared to counting NRs and enforcement actions, many of which are under appeal?

Second, the report was apparently provided to the Wall Street Journal in advance of publication and the industry, including named plants, only learned of its existence in a WSJ feature story on Friday, May 11. This is classic, inside-the beltway "spin control" by zealous government officials to the detriment of balanced journalism. It is unconscionable that USDA officials are releasing reports and providing media interviews to be quoted in a major national newspaper before the facts have been provided to the affected plants and industry organizations.

Third, the conclusion for the industry based on the evidence is that the attitude of Department officials is permeated by the SWAT (Special Weapons Assault Team) mentality and driven by enforcement techniques learned from the Federal Bureau of Investigation which are apparently a key part of the HACCP training given to inspection officials. This public posture not only undermines consumer confidence; it undermines the credibility of thousands of truly sincere inspection officials who daily tell the industry that they would like to cooperate with the industry as it makes this sea change to a new inspection system.

Mr. Secretary, we are deeply disappointed at the negative and disparaging orientation of actions and press policies of your associates and subordinates. Please let us know if we misunderstood your representations about building consumer confidence in our recent meeting.


Very truly yours,


Rosemary Mucklow

Executive Director

National Meat Association