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Jon Slavin
Ms. Gardner
English Honors 10
May 3, 2015

Prohibited Poultry

In 2012, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) discovered the source of a
widespread salmonella outbreak. In just a year, the meat distributor Foster Farms issued a recall
on millions of pounds of meat that caused over 600 illnesses in 29 states, including Puerto Rico,
reported Mary Jalonick of the Associated Press. This caused the USDA to overhaul their 50 year
old poultry inspection guidelines and look a little closer at the situation. What they found was
devastating: over 5,000 illnesses annually could be traced back to distributors like Foster Farms.
Illnesses that are not visible to the naked eye, like the infamous salmonella, went unnoticed
under the watch of a USDA inspector, standing in one place on the line, perusing for visual
defects (Jalonick).
Some say that the food industry has been ruined, and products like meat and dairy are no
longer safe for us to consume, yet there are still those who oppose this, claiming that the food is
perfectly fine. After all, if were all still alive, its got to be safe enough to eat, right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned declaration is one that is in far too many Americans' minds,
and it is a subject that we must all take a side on to ensure the cleanliness of our food. The
average American has a proclivity to buy large amounts of meat (though that number is
dropping) so it is immensely important that we Americans, even the vegetarians, investigate food
safety. If there appears to be a problem in the meat industry, there could be a problem with the

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vegetable industry too. It would be much better to act on it than it would be to suffer the disease
that could ensue. However, the real question we need to be asking ourselves is this: is the USDA
doing its absolute best to see that our food is as safe as can be? Or are they lagging behind and
missing dozens of potential threats to the countrys general health?
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service released a priority list of actions. They
include developing more stringent sampling and testing and creating first-ever national standards
for salmonella contamination rates in cut chicken parts. The agency also wants to expand a
controversial test program to overhaul inspection procedures at slaughter facilities, a process that
could lead to fewer government inspectors in the nation's poultry plants, David Pierson of the
LA Times writes. The USDA began enforcing these new guidelines soon after the beginning of
the Obama Administration, and it is widely believed by those in the field that the Bush
Administration seriously neglected food safety, especially when it comes to meat, and especially
when it comes to the overall productivity of the USDA. It is also believed that those problems
with inspection are still around today, leading to the USDA's inefficiency.
From a skeptical perspective, the food industry of America is flawed, even after the
reforms recently put in place by the USDA. The evidence that food-borne diseases are prevalent
and difficult to detect is one reason to be cautious. Another reason is the disregard of diseases
like Mad Cow, which continue to plague citizens even after reforms are put in place. The worst
point in support of skepticism is the fact that the food industry is large, and it would be extremely
difficult, or near impossible, to maintain a steady infrastructure for inspection.

In opposition, there are those who believe that the food industry in the U.S. is perfectly
fine, and the food produced is safe. Furthermore, they believe that the USDA should ban only

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certain strains of salmonella that are known to cause diseases, especially for the young and old,
claim Kimberly Kindy and Brady Dennis.
This opposing side of the argument is often backed up by the fact that out of millions of
citizens, only hundreds are affected, and based on this there cannot be any discernable problem
with the distribution of food. This opinion is up for debate, but one thing is sure: the industry is
far too expansive for anybody to ever find out. The opposing side will also point out flaws in the
USDAs inspection guidelines. The Pew study was prompted by two salmonella outbreaks linked
to chicken produced by California-based Foster Farms, which did not respond to calls and emails
from the press. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified hundreds of
victims across the country, but the agency said that because salmonella cases largely go
undiagnosed, as many as 15,000 people could have been sickened by the contaminated meat
(Kindy and Dennis). The supporters of the claim that the food industry is safe believe that the
USDA's efforts to help the food industry are meaningless, or that the USDA could be trying
harder to fix big problems. While many of the USDAs efforts may come to no avail, the idea
that they should not try anymore is dangerous to the safety of our food.
The idea that the food industry is safe under the USDA can still correlate to the
opposition, since the opposition wishes for a cessation of USDA activity. From my perspective,
the industry is not safe enough yet, and therefore the help of the USDA is needed, and they need
to do a better job than they currently are. The evidence for unsafe food is clear in the fact that the
USDA has to recall meat every year in the tens of millions of pounds (Jalonick). Based on the
facts presented, it seems as though the food industry is something everyone should keep their
eyes on and form opinions about if they want to preserve their foods freshness. In summary, if

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the USDA continues to conduct inspections on meat and produce but they improve upon them
aggressively, the food industry will begin to improve across the board.
The food industry is not safe as long as there are diseases like Mad Cow that continue to
plague citizens even after the USDA enacts new guidelines. America's beef industry and federal
agriculture officials took pains to reassure the public that the nation's meat supply is safe, after an
announcement in April of 2012 that a California dairy cow tested positive for mad cow disease,
says Paul Rogers of the LA Times. Based on this, the nation has another cause for doubt in the
food industrys safety and regulations. With another incident in the mix, the population of
America is faced with not only food safety, but disease control after the fact.
The final point to ponder is the belief that the food industry is so immense, that it would
be nearly impossible to solve problems within it on a universal scale, and it would be even harder
to unify different distributors. Based on the strategies that the USDA takes to prevent disease,
one can only conclude that the industry is very large. "The push has taken on new urgency this
year after a salmonella outbreak tied to Foster Farms poultry from plants in central California
sickened at least 389 people nationwide" (Pierson). Based on this information, the nation will
have to try harder to come to agreements about how we inspect our food, and the extent to which
we prepare products before we distribute them, so that the industry is more uniform. Therefore,
the food industry is so large that it presents a problem for any plans that would require a more
organized industry. Based on the facts that food-borne diseases are prevalent and difficult to
detect, diseases like Mad Cow are difficult to contain, and that the industry is massive, almost
beyond unification, one should stay cautious when thinking about the safety of the food.
Therefore, there is a massive problem in the lap of the USDA, tasked with dealing with the entire
countrys supply of food.

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Everybody is affected by food, everybody eats food; therefore, we should all care about
the safety aspects of our food, and take action against things that prevent the safety of food.
We owe it to ourselves to investigate our food, and care about where it comes from and who is
providing it. If we dont, then we are at the mercy of people who may not care if we get sick,
which is a frightening thought. Since the evidence sheds light on the increasingly expansive
industry that is the food industry, and since we have seen that there continue to be outbreaks of
diseases such as salmonella and E-coli, it would be safe to say that the USDA is certainly not
doing enough to secure the safety of the food we eat.

Works Cited

Jalonick, Mary Clare. "USDA Overhauls 50 Year-Old Poultry Inspections." News Journal
(Wilmington). 01 Aug. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher.Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

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Kindy, Kimberly, and Brady Dennis. "Salmonella Outbreaks Expose Weaknesses in USDA
Oversight." Washington Post. 10 Feb. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Kindy, Kimberly, and Brady Dennis. "Reports See 'Serious Weaknesses' in Poultry Inspection."
Washington Post. 19 Dec. 2013: A.3. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Kindy, Kimberly. "USDA Pilot Program Fails to Stop Contaminated Meat." Washington Post. 11
Sep. 2013: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Pierson, David. "Strategy to Fight Poultry Bacteria Outlined." Los Angeles Times. 05 Dec. 2013:
B.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Rogers, Paul. "Mad Cow Case Prompts New Look at Safety." Los Angeles Times. 06 May 2012:
A.23. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.