What price human health?


The export of disease-ridden American meat products issued with false export certificates is becoming increasingly common.

        Veterinarians in charge of federal meat inspections acknowledge they are being pressured by the Department of Agriculture into falsifying records. This web of deceit may pose a significant health-risk to foreign consumers.

        In letter to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman from the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, the NAFV charges that a veterinarian was recently "disciplined and forced to retire" for refusing to yield to corrupt pressure. According to a report (19 Nov) in the Des Moines Sunday Register, the veterinarian refused to certify cattle as coming from disease-free farms when this wasn't the case.

        In its letter to Glickman, the Association notes that "there has been a longstanding practice of (the USDA) requiring the signing of veterinary export certificates prior to the product even being produced."

        William Hughes, a lawyer for the group, noted that other veterinarians risk discipline for refusing to sign "even the most outrageous and obviously false statements".

        In an internal memo of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Mark T. Mina, deputy administrator of FSIS, detailed violations of health regulations: poor handling, bad hygiene and grossly inadequate sterilization techniques.

        These violations included "direct carcass contamination from careless dressing procedures." During careless dressing, stomach contents and faeces can be scattered through the carcass of the butchered animal, contaminating it with E. coli and other bacteria.

        E. coli is a dangerous, potentially lethal strain of bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Infection with E. coli can lead to kidney-failure, coma and even death.

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