Washington, D.C.— In an effort to protect Americans from questionable meat imports, the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch today pressured USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to explain whether meat products produced under Australia’s newest inspection model will be allowed into the United States. The inquiry came on the heels of revelations that some Australian meat companies have opted to hire private third party firms to perform meat inspections on products destined for the European Union and expressed interest in using this system in plants sending red meat to the United States.
“I don’t understand the contortions that the Australian government is going through to avoid having competent government inspectors in its slaughterhouses,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The meat industry there should certainly not be allowed to police itself. Moreover, our government has been complicit in this scheme, first by recognizing privatized inspection in Australia, and now by trying to foist questionable imports on U.S. consumers. Every year, the United States imports over 600 million pounds of red meat from Australia, so it’s critical we get to the bottom of this.”
In 2013, the European Union rejected an inspection model, the Australian Export Meat Inspection System (AEMIS), that privatized most inspections in Australian red meat plants. The EU argued that AEMIS inspections created an inherent conflict-of-interest. The U.S. granted approval to AEMIS in 2011 for red meat exports. The formation of private third party inspection firms was intended to alleviate the concerns expressed by the European Union. There is no record of USDA recognizing this new inspection scheme.
“In June, Food & Water Watch petitioned the USDA to revoke their approval of privatized meat inspection systems in several countries, including Australia, for import to the United States,” said Hauter. “This latest example of the chaos in the Australian meat inspection program is further proof that we should not be importing meat from companies that do not use government employees for inspection.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.