Take one unresponsive government agency, hobbled by years of Bush budget cuts and misdirection, add some big meat companies with minimal federal oversight, plus a dash of YouTube...and what do you get? The largest beef recall in history and a big fat scandal that exposes just how badly the Bush administration has eviscerated the Department of Agriculture's food safety division in favor of making life easier for businesses.
Huzzah for the Humane Society, which took undercover video of the abuse of sick and disabled cattle at a Chino, Calif., meat packing plant and posted it on YouTube, where it has created such a furor that Agriculture officials had to respond. Boos and hisses for the U.S. officials who tried to downplay the problem by saying they thought it was an isolated incident (if they're not stationed at these plants, how can they know?) and that most of the recalled meat had already been eaten.
As you read the New York Times story, Largest Recall of Ground Beef is Ordered, consider that "downer" cattle are banned from our food supply to keep us from contracting mad cow disease, a fatal brain-wasting disease that has killed people in Great Britain and Canada. Then consider that "of the 143 million pounds that were recalled, 37 million went to make hamburgers, chili and tacos for school lunches and other federal nutrition programs...."
Just one more reason why we need change in Washington.
(Author's note: In the 1980s, I worked for a livestock industry trade association.)