Meat Safety at Risk, Warn Overwhelmed Inspectors

Sick cows are slipping by and workers are fooling inspectors
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2008 5:50 AM CST
A customer looks at beef at a Costco store in Mountain View, California. Meat inspectors say that low staffing levels make it possible for diseased meat to get into the food supply. "They're not covering...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Government inspectors say staff shortages are making it impossible for them to do their jobs properly and that sick cows could be getting into the food supply, reports AP. With staffing levels so low, inspectors are forced to quickly scan hundreds of animals to spot signs of illness like drooping ears, while slaughterhouse workers who warn each other with walkie-talkies try to steer them away from problem areas.

Last week's recall of 143 million pounds of beef  has put meat safety in the spotlight and prompted inspectors to speak out. Each cow going to slaughter is supposed to be checked for signs of illness but the workload often makes that impossible. "When they come into these big slaughter facilities, they'll put 200 head in a pen. All you can tell is they're moving," said one inspector.