Letter: U.S. needs better beef inspection

A worker stacks ground beef patties at a A worker stacks ground beef patties at a meat packing and distribution facility in this file photo. (June 24, 2008) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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In "Cargill Beef recalls 29G pounds of ground beef in salmonella scare" [News, July 23], we were again informed that the livestock industry had failed to protect us from contaminated meat.

Today's concentrated animal feeding operations, which can result in feces-covered cattle being led to slaughter under unsanitary, horrifying conditions, are the direct source of such contamination. But it's the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is responsible for inspecting the output of those slaughterhouses, even though it sometimes operates as if its primary goal is meeting industry needs rather than protecting public health.

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That "USDA Inspected" stamp on a package of hamburger patties has been rendered meaningless by an inadequate inspection protocol that regularly allows salmonella- and E. coli-contaminated meat to enter the marketplace and sicken more than a million people every year, some fatally so.

The risk of illness could easily be reduced through better regulation of industry practices, such as the slaughter of 80 percent of cattle by just four slaughterhouses. That concentration means that a contamination at one of them can cause a nationwide outbreak.

Stacie Orell, Manhattan

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