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Until We Meat Again

Claim:   Photograph documents a recent move to approve animal carcasses with cancers, tumors, and open sores for human consumption.

MIXTURE

Example:   [Collected via Facebook, January 2014]

Are meat inspectors fighting to ok meat with tumors and infection?
 

Origins:   In January 2014, many Facebook users were appalled by a widely shared item announcing that "meat from diseased animals has been approved for consumers" and featuring a nauseating picture seemingly documenting the sort of thing that shoppers might now be purchasing from grocery store meat departments:

The federal agency overseeing food inspection is imposing new rules reclassifying as safe for human consumption animal carcasses with cancers, tumors and open sores.

Federal meat inspectors and consumer groups are protesting the move to classify tumors and open sores as aesthetic problems, which permits the meat to get the government's purple seal of approval as a wholesome food product.

 

However, that information was very old news, not a description of a recent event. The text was lifted directly from a July 2000 news article describing the implementation of new federal rules for classifying animal carcasses:

The federal agency overseeing food inspection is imposing new rules reclassifying as safe for human consumption animal carcasses with cancers, tumors and open sores.

Federal meat inspectors and consumer groups are protesting the move to classify tumors and open sores as aesthetic problems, which permits the meat to get the government's purple seal of approval as a wholesome food product.

"I don't want to eat pus from a chicken that has pneumonia. I think it's gross," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project. "Most Americans don't want to eat this sort of contamination in their meals."

Delmer Jones, a federal food inspector for 41 years who lives in Renlap, Ala., said he's so revolted by the lowering of food wholesomeness standards that he doesn't buy meat at the supermarket anymore because he doesn't trust that it is safe to eat.

"I eat very little to no meat, but sardines and fish," said Jones, president of the National Joint Council of Meat Inspection Locals, a union of 7,000 meat inspectors nationwide affiliated with the American Federation of Government Employees. He said he's trying to get his wife to stop eating meat. "I've told her what she's eating."
 

The accompanying photograph had also made the rounds of the Internet before. We don't yet know its specific origins, but speculation about what it pictures has ranged from its being an ordinary hunk of meat to which someone has added Béarnaise sauce (in order to create a gross-looking effect) to its being a cut from the carcass of an animal with a spinal abscess:

Looks like a spinal abscess (i.e., a localized collection of pus separated from the surrounding tissue by a fibrous capsule). Happens occasionally. No respectable establishment is going to be serving that, though.

As someone who has worked in the meat industry for the last 8+ years, I can confirm that this is exactly right. We see these things all the time. Usually, they are caught and excised by QA's or "meat inspectors". Sadly, though, it is fairly common that they are missed. For around two of those 8 years, I worked in an area that involved sorting the "finished" product, and I was pretty disgusted to see how often these things are missed.

It will get past the people who are too bored to do their job properly, but once it hits the butcher who's selling to you, he has a very vested interest in keeping your food clean and presentable lest he lose customers. He just wants to sell an edible product but ends up losing good product due to careless work further back in the chain. Bottom line is that consumers really don't need to worry about this. It's not unheard of, but if it does happen it will be pretty obvious and you should most definitely take steps to make sure whoever is accountable is held as such.
 


Last updated:   14 April 2014

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