U.S. Inspector General Says Problems with Meat Safety
The Office of Inspector General gives FDA and FSIS basically a failing grade in protecting consumers from unsafe meat. In the March 25, 2010 report from The Office of Inspector General, several startling concerns were pointed out including (but not limited to) agencies not working together, risky drug and heavy metal residues allowed in meat, and lack of FDA science to protect consumers. As I read the report, my mind couldn’t help but wonder the unknown concerns of pet food meat.
The following are direct quotes from the March 25, 2010 Office of Inspector General Report…
“One of the public food safety issues facing the United States is the contamination of meat with residual veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals.”
“The Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiated this audit to evaluate the effectiveness of the national residue program and to assess how well FISI, FDA, and EPA were coordinating to accomplish the program’s objectives.”
“Based on our review, we found that the national residue program is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for harmful residues. Together, FISI, FDA, and EPA have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (e.g., copper or dioxin), which have resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce. Additionally, FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when its test have confirmed the excessive presence of veterinary drugs.”
“When testing for the various types of drug residue that the agencies have determined to be high risk, FSIS relies on FDA to approve the testing methods it uses. However, the approved methods are often antiquated and ineffective because they were approved when FDA first approved the drug. “Bridging” testing methods – confirming that a newer and more efficient method will yield acceptable results when compared to the FDA-approved method – is a slow and difficult process, and FDA is not always willing, or able, to undertake the work.”
“We found, however, that tolerances have not been set for many potentially harmful substances, which can impair FSIS enforcement activities. For example, in 2008, when Mexican authorities rejected a shipment of U.S. beef because it contained copper in excess of Mexico’s tolerances, FSIS had no basis to stop distribution of this meat in the United States since FDA has set no tolerance for copper.”
“We also found that FSIS does not recall meat adulterated with harmful residue, even when it is aware that the meat has failed its laboratory tests. Between July 12, 2007 and March 11, 2008, FSIS found that four carcasses were adulterated with violative levels of veterinary drugs and that the plants involved had released the meat into the food supply. Although the drugs involved could result in stomach, nerve, or skin problems for consumers, FSIS requested no recall.
In these cases, FSIS determined that consumers would not likely be “acutely harmed” by consuming a single serving of this meat so it could be difficult to force a plant to implement a voluntary recall.”
Mexico has a tolerance level for copper in meat but the U.S. doesn’t? FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service; sub-category of FDA) determined that consumers would not likely be ‘acutely harmed’ with consuming a single serving of drug contaminated meat? No definition was provided for ‘acutely harmed’.
But what about meat in pet food? If the meat in a pet food is contaminated with drug residues or heavy metals, unlike ‘a single serving of drug contaminated meat’ as humans would consume, this pet continues to eat the food day in and day out until the bag is empty. Damage is done.
Some – few – pet food manufacturers test every batch of pet food prior to distribution to pet owners. However, testing is only effective IF the pet food manufacturer knows what to test for. Considering this report clearly shows lack of FDA and FSIS action on drug residues, what dangers are getting past the laboratory tests of those pet food manufacturers that bother to test each batch? What drug residues and harmful substances are in the pet food meat of those that don’t test?
One example of lack of FDA and FSIS effectiveness provided in this report tells a frightening story. “Unlike other countries, FDA has not set a tolerance for arsenic. In 2008, a producer self-reported that arsenic had been mistakenly ingested by his cattle, and voluntarily withheld contaminated animals from the food supply after they were slaughtered and tested positive for arsenic poisoning. If the producer had not acted voluntarily, FSIS would not have had a basis to stop distribution of this meat once it was in commerce.”
Key words in this statement that concerns me…the cattle producer admitted his cattle ingested arsenic AFTER they were slaughtered. Were these animals destroyed or were they (like most garbage of human food processing) simply turned into a pet food meat? Arsenic and all? Another statement from this report does seem to imply these contaminated animal carcasses would be processed into pet food… “FSIS also needs procedures that specify what actions agency personnel are to take regarding the disposition of carcasses that contain potentially hazardous substances when there are no formal tolerances established by EPA or FDA.”
The report implies that there is no procedure that specifies what to do with a contaminated animal carcass. No clear procedure, my guess would be it would be sold to pet food.
The Office of Inspector General Report provides the following potential side effects or health consequences from what we must believe are commonly found substances in meat…
Flunixin Fecal blood, gastrointestinal erosions and ulcers, and renal necrosis.
Penicillin Life-threatening allergic reaction (i.e., difficulty breating, closing of the throat); serious nerve damage; severe inflammation of the colon; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; bleeding; and diarrhea.
Arsenic Nonmalignant skin lesions, skin malignancy, internal malignancies, vascular diseases, and hypertension.
Copper Hemolysis, jaundice, changes in lipid profile, oxidative stress, renal dysfunction, and even death.
Ivermectin Neurotoxicity (e.g., altering normal activity of the nervous system which can eventually disrupt or even kill neurons, key cells that transmit and process signals from the brain).
And should you think that cooking the meat or cooking the pet food would destroy these substances… “Residues of drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals differ from microbiological pathogens like E. coli,11 Salmonella, and Listeria Monocytogenes, which the public more readily associates with food safety. While cooking meat properly can destroy these pathogens before they are consumed, no amount of cooking will destroy residues. In some cases, heat may actually break residues down into components that are more harmful to consumers.”
All of these substances ALREADY violate Federal food safety law. ALREADY. Yet no one is enforcing the law. Instead it seems the agencies keep finger pointing at each other…’you fix it, no you fix it, no you…no you’. One last quote from The Office of Inspector General Report, in reference to these Federal agencies not properly working together to protect the public…
“These coordination problems have remained unresolved for over 25 years…”
Ridiculous. Write your Representatives in Congress. If they don’t respond, it’s probably because they have eaten too much meat with drug residues in it.
Should you wish to read the full report from the Office of Inspector General, visit http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/24601-08-KC.pdf
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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