USDA Administrator Criticizes Inspectors

Nov 13, 2003

By George Anderson

You may have seen or heard reports that the administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, Garry McKee, is unhappy with his
own agency’s meat inspectors.

It’s true. Mr. McKee told them so in a speech made last month in Nashville. (View transcript at

“Last year, in a speech to the American Meat Institute,” Mr. McKee said, “I challenged the industry to become experts at HACCP. Everything they needed to learn in order to perform
properly is available in our regs and directives. It is all out there and written in black and white. I distinctly remember saying, just as there is no room for junk science;
there is also no room for junk HACCP. Well, you can add another phrase to the quote and that would be and there is also no room for junk inspection.

“The time for ignorance and excuses is over. Plants must have a living, vibrant HACCP plan in place that works and is validated. We can not tolerate facilities that do not even
recognize that the risk of pathogens exists.” 

Mr. McKee said inspectors must take a more active role and refrain from passing the buck for food safety issues to other quarters. “I am tired of reading articles quoting our
inspectors as saying we don’t have the authority to take action against a plant that is patently violating its own HACCP plan or our regulations or statutes. Everyone in this
room knows we have the authority, as well as the responsibility, to take action against violators.”

Moderator’s Comment: What is your level of confidence in business and the government’s ability to protect the safety of the food supply in the US?

Gary McKee’s said, “I think that through cooperation we can all rise to the challenge before us. But we are living at a time when the stakes and standards
have never been higher.”

Mr. McKee is right about the challenge as recent stories of posted envelopes with white dust showing up in newsrooms and post office closings because traces
of Anthrax have been found by detection equipment.
Anderson – Moderator

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