Meat Industry Inspections

This is in reference to John Kendall’s article (May 28), “Southland Meat Industry, Inspections Under Probe.”

As a trade association representing many meat companies in Southern California, we are concerned that the article gives consumers the incorrect impression that bad meat is being shipped from Los Angeles-area meat plants to supermarkets, butcher shops, and restaurants. We are equally concerned about meat companies that do not adhere to the standards required by law. In the meat business, as has so often been the case, one bad actor spoils the whole show.

To put the matter in perspective: Late last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that a special review should be conducted of its program-effectiveness in Southern California. USDA deemed that communication problems between line inspectors and their managers--not incidents of bad meat going out to the public--warranted an examination. The review, conducted in January 1985, cited several problem areas involving internal USDA communications. The review also found that because of these problems a total 6% of all Los Angeles-area meat plants, compared with 4% nationwide, had “deficiencies"--in other words, infractions of some inspection regulations. These deficiencies resulted in “inspection location reports” (ILRs), which are essentially the equivalent of traffic tickets.

In no way does an ILR mean that bad meat is being distributed to the public. In addition, the 6% figure should not be overemphasized, as it was in the article; there are still 94% of the plants operating under acceptable conditions. Further, the USDA inspector in the plant has authority to condemn meat and to shut down operations for good cause. Since the review was conducted in January it led to an immediate effort to correct the problems of the 6%.




Mucklow is executive director of the Western States Meat Assn.