U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced his Meat Safety and Accountability Act to significantly improve the ability to trace the original source of contaminated meat.
 
Currently, contaminated meat products are only traced back to the packing plant or butcher shop they came from.  But dangerous food contamination often begins earlier in the supply chain-at the slaughterhouse, where meat sometimes comes into contact with animal hides or manure.
 
Tester's legislation simply requires the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service to design and implement - using its existing budget - an initiative to trace tainted meat back to the original source of contamination.  The bill also improves testing at meat suppliers and individual meat processors in the case of an outbreak.
 
Tester said his legislation is designed to hold "the right people accountable when something goes wrong," such as potentially life-threatening outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella contamination.
 
"This bill puts more common sense and fairness into the equation as our food travels through the supply chain to the kitchen table," Tester said.  "This bill will make our food safer to eat by ramping up accountability.  And it will help small meat processors in rural America that too often get blamed for contamination that didn't begin with them."
 
Tester wrote the bill after working closely with Miles City's John Munsell, a former meat plant owner.
 
"As long as the Department of Agriculture resists tracing back to the slaughterhouse of origin, American consumers are guaranteed to experience ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls," said Munsell, now the manager of the Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement.  "Senator Tester is to be commended for his willingness to challenge the USDA on this public health issue."
 
Tester's Meat Safety and Accountability Act will now go to the Senate Agriculture Committee.