When meat is recalled by the federal government, we're instructed to return it for a refund or throw it away.
So if we can't be trusted to cook the contaminated meat to a food-safe temperature (hi, I have a meat thermometer for this very reason), why is the government letting processed food manufacturers have a go at it?
I was shocked to learn that recalled meat is sometimes "recycled," undergoing a USDA-approved cooking method that supposedly kills the pathogens that made it unsuitable for grocery stores. The meat is then used in everything from fast food and frozen food to pet food. But the really scary thing is that these products' packaging isn't required to disclose that they contain potentially contaminated meat, meaning we, as consumers, have no way to choose whether we want to put such foods into our bodies or feed it to our families.
We also have no idea how much meat is processed this way, since the industry as a whole is so hush-hush about its sourcing. The USDA is trying to pull together some numbers for BuzzFeed, per their request, but a spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute told them that its organization "certainly [doesn’t] track that," and even went so far as to admit that she doesn't think that data exists.
Even if the treated meat is supposedly safe, shouldn't we have a right to know where the meat in our food comes from? In December, Congress passed legislation that repealed mandatory country of origin labeling for our meat, meaning we no longer will know which country our meat comes from. Now we find out that we aren't being informed when our food contains previously recalled, pathogen-contaminated meat.
Why are we being slowly pushed out of the decision-making process when it comes to choosing our food? I guarantee that when given the choice between meat that has never been contaminated and meat that has had to be de-contaminated, most people would choose the former. Instead, companies are disguising their sources and selling us meat that was previously pulled from store shelves — and we have no way of knowing.
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