A USDA veterinarian is alleging that FSIS officials overlooked mistreatment of animals at slaughterhouses, including the butchering of sick days-old calves and pigs that were still unconscious.

"When upper-level FSIS management looks the other way as food safety or humane slaughter laws are broken … then management is just as guilty for breaking those laws," says Dean Wyatt, a supervisory veterinarian for FSIS, in testimony sent to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. USA Today obtained a copy of the testimony in advance of today's hearing.

Wyatt says that he ordered suspensions in operations at Bushway Packing, in Grand Isle, Vt., three times in 2008 and 2009. He witnessed downed calves being dragged through pens to slaughter. Each time, he says, managers overruled him, and the plant was allowed to run. Bushway eventually was closed permanently after video of workers hitting calves was released by the Humane Society of the United States.

USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver says inaction on Wyatt's reports occurred before the tenure of current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is "fully committed" to enforcing safe and humane slaughtering rules.

Wyatt also said that his superiors dismissed violations he saw at the Seaboard Foods plany in Guymon, Okla, including slaughtering conscious pigs, beating and trampling animals. In some cases, Seaboard successfully appealed Wyatt's citations, says company marketing director David Eaheart. And Seaboard always "took steps to ensure that if there were any deficiencies, they were addressed."

To read the full article, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-03-03-food-safety_N.htm

Source: USA Today

ConAgra to shut down damaged Slim Jim plant

ConAgra Foods announced it will close its Garner, N.C. Slim Jim plant, which was severely damaged by an explosion in June, 2009, that killed three people. About 500 jobs will be lost when the plant closes, but 200 jobs will be added to its plant in Troy, Ohio, where production will be moved.

The closing is expected to result in charges of $52 million to $72 million, while the company will also spend $60 million to $70 million at the Troy plant, ConAgra said.

Source: Reuters

Sen. Johanns draws parallels between Toyotas, American beef

Former USDA Secretary and current Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns blasted Japan during a meeting of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. During a testimony given by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the safety of Toyota cars coming into the United States, Johanns noted that there was never a single fatality in Japan because of the one case of mad cow disease that was documented in the United States, yet the Japanese market remains largely closed to U.S. beef still, six years later. Johanns said “maybe it's time for us to tell the Japanese to allow our beef in or we will treat Japanese produced Toyotas in the same way,” reports Wallaces Farmer.

The Later, the Web site reports, during the Bayer Crop Science-sponsored Ag Issues Forum in Anaheim, Calif., the frustration of Senator Johanns with the Japanese over the lack of progress in getting access for US beef widened resonated with many in the room and remains a sticking point that many say should be pursued more aggressively by the Obama Administration.

Source: Wallaces Farmer