March 21, 2018

Food & Water Watch Disputes US-AU Food Safety Equivalency

usdaart-tbFood & Water Watch has sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the equivalency status of Australia’s privatized meat inspection program and the USDA program. Last year, the USDA decided to make the two programs equivalent, despite discoveries of contaminated meat imported from Australia.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement, “documents from USDA and Australian officials reveal that the repeated problems from products coming from Australia in 2012 show that this is a systemic problem and that privatized meat inspection in Australia is not working.” The meat was contaminated with fecal material and contents of the digestive tract.

The organization also opposes the “Beyond the Border” program, which is establishing equivalency between the U.S. and Canadian meat products. The program is continuing, despite a recall of more than 2 million pounds of Canadian beef last year that was contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.

The letter references a letter written by Dr. Ronald K. Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). It states, “within the last month, there habve been five additional zero tolerance (fecal material/ingesta) point-of-entry violations in four separate establishments. FSIS is interested in the activities AQIS has planned or is undertaking from a system-wide perspective that will prevent fecal material and ingesta contamination of the carcass during the slaughter process.”¬†Food & Water Watch wants to know about discussions between the U.S. and Australia about these point of entry violations.

In addition, a letter from Dr. John Langbridge, Veterinary Counsel for the Australian Meat Industry Council discussed imported meat rejections of New Zealand products. The USDA has granted equivalency status with that country as well. Food & Water Watch wants to know what measures New Zealand has taken to resolve point of entry rejections to the U.S. We’ll keep you informed as this issue develops.

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