A group of 12,000 doctors, who advocate for ethical research and vegetarian diets, have taken clean eating awareness to a new level. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been debating fecal matter contamination on meat with the US Department of Agriculture since 2013. By relying on the naked eye to detect possible fecal bacteria on meat and poultry, the USDA has allegedly taken a lax approach with their inspection processes. The advocacy group previously filed a petition to ask the USDA to enhance their procedures for testing possible contamination, and to delete the word “wholesome” from labeling. The advocacy group is pushing for a description they feel is more fitting for the products the USDA approves – “May Contain Feces.”
Naturally, with the rise of healthy eating habits, people would likely never purchase meat products that are marketed as possibly bacteria-infected. Not only has the USDA ignored the request for a label change, but it is also responsible for speeding up the meat inspection process. The standard for fecal matter inspection has increased from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. It is difficult for the naked eye to detect possible contamination at 3 birds per second. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has cited a 2011 study that 48% of poultry products, that were inspected, contain fecal microorganisms. Based on this statistic, the naked eye method is likely not effective.
As a result of the USDA ignoring the PCRM’s attempt to find a solution to this problem, the group filed a lawsuit against the government agency on April 16 in Washington DC. In the lawsuit, the PCRM claims that the USDA violated the Freedom of Information Act by neglecting to provide updated statistics concerning contamination. In response to the lawsuit, the USDA contends that in addition to visual examinations of the meat, their inspections also include pathogen testing. The agency also assures the public that thorough cooking of meats destroys pathogens; and all raw agricultural products contain some level of bacteria. Despite the USDA’s defense, the PCRM maintains an ultimate goal of providing proper food safety for all consumers.