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The Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General has released a new report saying the government agencies responsible for ensuring the meat consumers buy is free of contamination from are not doing a particularly good job. According to the report, disagreements between agencies and lack of general oversight are leading to meat contaminated with high levels of residue from metals, antibiotics and pesticides possibly finding their way onto dinner plates across the country.
The Consumerist reports that although the responsibility for testing for bacterial contamination lies with the FSIS, the FDA and EPA together share responsibility for setting the federal limits on residues of antibiotics, pesticides and metals, something they have failed to do. The report specifically says, "Together, FSIS, 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."
Possibly increasing concerns about the safety levels of meat supposedly approved by these government agencies, The Consumerist reports a worrying incident. One shipment of beef headed to Mexico was turned away by that country's inspectors due to reportedly high levels of copper. Since federal limits on metal residue from copper have not been set, there would be nothing to prevent the same meat being sold to U.S. consumers.
Further failures of cooperation between FSIS and the EPA are included in the report. One specific issue involves the number of pesticides tested for by the FSIS. Although the report states the two agencies together have determined several pesticides would be health risks to consumers, FSIS continued to test for only one kind of pesticide due to limited resources and lack of limits set by the EPA on the other varieties of pesticides.
Consumers may want to take note of one other issue in the Inspector General's report. After meat enters the marketplace, the FSIS must be able to prove that a single serving of the contaminated meat would cause harm to anyone consuming it before they can issue a recall.