Meat and Poultry

Every year, Americans consume over 43 billion pounds of beef, pork, and poultry more than 160 pounds per person.(6) Ensuring that meat is safe for American families is an important governmental mission. For most of the last century, federal inspectors have carried out that mission by using the old "poke and sniff" system, in which an overworked cadre of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors physically checked 95 percent of all that meat, using their eyes, noses, and hands to try to detect any problems.

In July 1996, President Clinton announced the overhaul of USDA's meat and poultry inspection process. The new system is HACCP, the same scientific methods that are making seafood safe. The government sets the goals, but gives each company the flexibility to design a plan to meet them. It replaces a reliance on outdated procedures with new scientific testing that will keep diseases out of the food supply far better than the old inspections ever could. The new food safety system balances government regulation and industry responsibility. Industry will assume some costs for new equipment and technology, including its own scientific testing to ensure food safety, while USDA will conduct other testing and oversight to ensure that industry is meeting its food safety responsibility. These changes will add an estimated one-tenth of one cent to the cost of a pound of meat -- and will save an estimated $1 billion to $4 billion a year in the cost of food-borne illnesses. That's not much of a price to pay for a system that will far better ensure the safety of our food supply.(7)

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