A top official at a union for federal meat inspectors has said that the USDA is hurting from a lack of inspectors, which raises the possibility of contaminated products reaching consumers, reports the New York Times. Stan Painter, who is the president of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals and a meat inspector in Crossville, Ala., said the lack of inspectors most likely played a role in the recent Rancho Feeding Corp. recall of more than 7.8 million pounds of meat, because workers were stretched thin and did not have the time to properly examine meat.

“In many places, managers and veterinarians are being asked to help with inspections,” Painter said.

Data from the USDA was gathered through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Food and Water Watch. The Times reports that some areas of the United States have a high vacancy rate for meat inspectors. The Raleigh, N.C. district was said to have a vacancy rate of 11 percent, causing workloads for the remaining inspectors to double or triple.

“This is causing the inspection system to be strained to the point of breaking,” Wenonah Hauter, the group’s executive director, said in a Feb. 8 letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

For more information, read the report at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/american-meat-plants-said-to-face-shortages-of-inspectors.html?_r=0.

Source: New York Times