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spectors in that whole system. We've turned the inspection over to the contractors.

You would not be buying tanks that don't work and airplanes that don't fly and guns that won't shoot if we had our own inspectors in there holding the manufacturers to standards. We gradually are turning those over to all of the contractors and there are a lot of good ones out there, but the bad ones sure take the public for a ride, and that's what happens in this case.

The Government should have an onsite effective presence in all plants involving the production of meat and poultry products. Now what that presence finally looks like, we don't know, but for God's sake let's start coming with some answers. The answer is not just to take them out of there. That's for sure.

Industry productivity improvements should be forced to adhere to any inspection process constrains which are necessary to protect the consumer, and I use as an example when they speeded up the lines they also had to speed up the mechanical gutting machine, and that's causing more contamination. That's just one example.

The Australian system, by the way, uses a system of manpower allocation based on the poundage in the output of the plants. We use a system of Gramm-Rudman. We say cut out the dollars at the top and cut the people off and then let it float out there in the trenches however it will. That's what's happening whether you're talking about only one and a half employees to treat veterans in our hospitals today when State standards require five and a half, by the way, Senator. Our VA hospitals would not meet State standards if you had to get accredited out there, and again I just go to the process we use for making governmental decisions.

The agency resource should be concentrated in the front-line troops, the inspectors. That is where the work is to be done and that's where we ought to have the majority of our work force. Out there actually doing the work and not sitting back in some ivory tower making decisions and writing up testimony that just skirts the problem.

The front line inspectors should be empowered with strong authority and given support by agency management to exercise the authority, and these inspectors can tell you horror story after horror story after horror story of finding problems and all it takes from the plant manager is a call to the supervisor and the supervisor will override him. There is a fear factor among this group.

I met with about 150 of them about four weeks ago and talked about the whole problem. They took an hour and a half of time and they just kept coming back, well, what can the union do if we really reveal this problem out there? What can the union do to protect us because we know we're going to lose our jobs and we know we're not going to get promoted and we know we're going to get transferred where we have to move 200 miles. We get on the list if we really hold the line in our role, which the law says we're supposed to do.

This agency does not stand behind these inspectors out there, Senator, and that needs to be dealt with.

New and approved inspection procedures should be additions to the onsite inspection process and not used as an excuse to replace or weaken the process.

Mr. Chairman, I could take a lot of time, but I've pretty much said what I think I want you to understand where we're coming from and where the troops are coming from out there, and we would be glad to answer any questions you may have at the point in time you want to do that.

Again, we thank you very much for the opportunity to present the views of the guys that are trying to do the job.

Senator LEVIN. Thank you, Mr. Blaylock, very much.

What we'll do is hear from all of our witnesses and then ask questions all at one time.

Our next witness is Mr. Vernie Gee from Gardenia, California, who is an inspector for the Food, Safety and Inspection Service.

Mr. Gee, thank you for being here. We know you came, I guess, all the way from California last night.

TESTIMONY OF VERNIE GEE, INSPECTOR, FOOD, SAFETY AND INSPECTION SERVICE, USDA, GARDENIA, CA,1 ACCOMPANIED BY THOMAS DEVINE, LEGAL DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT

Mr. GEE. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting my testimony today.

My name is Vernie Gee. I am a GS-7 Level 10 meat and poultry inspector in the Long Beach area office, Food Safety and Inspection Service [FSIS] United States Department of Agriculture [USDA].

I've been a USDA inspector on the kill floor for meat and poultry, primarily beef and pork, since March 3, 1968.

I am accompanied by my counsel from the Government Accountability Project, Mr. Thomas Devine.

For many years I have been challenging filthy conditions and diseased carcasses at meat and poultry plants that received USDA approval for their products. For too long it has been a lonely struggle.

Thanks to the support of the media and of Congress the struggle to defend basic sanitation standards and public health in the meat and poultry industry isn't as lonely as it used to be.

I am afraid, however, that the public may get the wrong impression that the problems have been solved. Over the last year the USDA has claimed that management deficiencies in Southern California have been largely solved.

It is far too early to pat ourselves on the back. It's like we have run the first few yards of a mile, dropped out and patted ourselves on the back for a good race.

I told the review team last year of the ongoing problems in Southern California. Unfortunately, the review team didn't include my disclosure in their statement. As a result, the problems are continuing.

Today I want to share with you the type of public health threat that the Department of Agriculture isn't telling the public about. I will not discuss major policy issues. My testimony will be about problems I have seen as an eyewitness and that I told the review team about.

1 See p. 146 for Mr. Gee's prepared statement.

One result of personnel cuts is that we can't look at the meat the way we used to. An example involves Acceptable Quality Level, AQL checks at the end of the inspection process [AQL] is designed to learn if we have missed a significant number of defects in the carcass-by-carcass inspection.

If we find too many errors in the sample, the whole lot has to be reworked. In the past we could conduct these AQL checks every day. Due to personnel cutbacks, now the company usually does it. To show these effects, over the last year I am not aware of the companies rejecting any lots in AQL tests at plants where I worked. I personally have found plant officials falsifying the AQL reports. I personally double checked some of the companies 'results and have seen defects such as foot-long abscesses in the carcasses that are filled with greenish pus.

Depending on the condition of the beef, these types of abscesses are on up to 10 to 30 percent of the carcasses in lots approved by the companies. I've watched plant officials skip steps in the AQL reinspections and then fill in results on the AQL for checks they did not make.

The second area involves ongoing sanitation breakdowns. To put it simply, in the last year the flies have been getting meaner, the roaches fatter and the rats bolder. There are still holes in the roofs at some plants, so that when it rains the rainwater falls on and soaks the products, which still go out to the public.

I regularly see examples of contamination in mareguts, or beef intestines, which are approved for sale to the public despite having fecal contamination that hasn't even been flushed out. I estimate that the fecal contamination rate on mareguts is near 100 percent of what USDA has approved as edible products.

Sanitation records are falsified to indicate that problems have been solved for sanitation, although the equipment is still rusty, the plants still use worn metal tanks to store their product, and rely on rusty rollers and equipment that routinely has contact with the product. Some of the plants use the same oil on their rollers for months, although they have certified they took corrective action.

In many instances, the plant workers themselves may be carriers of filth. I regularly see pigeon droppings tracked around the building, a product sometimes falls on the floor and picks up germs from the droppings. Workers at the plant seldom keep their hands clean, and since many of the workers are aliens who don't have health cards, I am concerned what type of disease they may bring to the process.

The third management problem is inconsistent enforcement of USDA standards. One reason is that the veterinarians seem to have different laws for different plants. With respect to suspect tuberculosis carcasses, for example, when inspectors see lesions we are supposed to immediately identify the carcasses for the veterinarian to send it in and best tested. The carcass must be retained and the test conducted. Some veterinarians actually honor these standards. The veterinarian in the room I now work, Dr. Herrera, sends in for testing between 90 and 100 percent of the TB-suspect carcasses that I identify. USDA personnel, however, have told me that even this spring other veterinarians frequently refused to send in samples for testing.

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The same inconsistencies apply to enforcement of the sanitation laws. For example, while a circuit supervisor may literally nitpick at one plant, the same supervisor will allow rusty rails in the cooler, green and black molds in the walls, or holes in the roof at other plants.

A third aspect of the management breakdown involves training. Newer inspectors haven't been taught what the symptoms are of diseases that are forbidden from going out to the public. Over the last years I regularly have seen inspectors miss the symptoms of measles, tuberculosis, cancer, pneumonia, arthritis, jaundice, septicemia, drug lesions indicating injections of chemicals and even cadavers, beef that were dead before they were slaughtered.

I know the problems are due to the poor training because the inspectors come to me and ask what are the spots, abscesses, swollen joints, lungs with mucus, watery tissues or discoloration areas. They ask what is it and what does it mean.

Another example involved mareguts. Inspectors have not been adequately trained to check for parasites in these intestines, which are approved anyway for public consumption. I regularly have found instances over the last year where parasites in the mareguts were missed.

Although most of the publicity involves beef and poultry, there are similar problems for pork. For example, many of the diseases that I have just listed are missed for pork as well. The products, nonetheless, are approved for the public to eat.

USDA inspectors regularly miss parasites and degeneration in the kidneys of swine, and the lack of sanitation is inexcusable. Almost 100 percent of the time during slaughter of swine, kidney urine drips onto the carcasses, pieces of lung have been left in the diaphragm and the rib cage. I also see adhesions-dirty inflammation that is left after we have gotten rid of the pus from the ab

scesses.

It has gotten so bad that urine-soaked fat from the hog's diaphragm is pulled from the carcasses to be used for cooking oil, even before the rest of the carcass is washed.

What's behind this sorry record is lack of management support for the veterinarians and the inspectors who defend the public.

Personally, I have been fortunate recently to work under veterinarians who support me against harassment from the plants. That hasn't always been the case. I am sorry that now these same veterinarians who have shielded me from harassment are getting it even worse from USDA management.

To illustrate, four veterinarians in the Southern California area who have reputations for supporting their inspectors against company harassment are now expected to be fired. I would like to talk about one case study.

Dr. Herrera is an honest veterinarian who has stood up to pressure and enforced the law for the last 20 years. Until recently he consistently had excellent performance appraisals. I would like to discuss a few examples of plants that he cleaned up in the 1983-84 time period to show the type of work Dr. Herrera does.

At one facility, for example, when he arrived there were many roaches in the Government office. You could open your desk and four or five would come out. There was rusty equipment, cracked

walls, filth and rust getting into potable water used in the chill tanks to wash chickens. There was even a big hole in the wall that was so bad the bees had made a beehive inside the poultry plant and the paint was peeling all over.

Although management complained, Dr. Herrera stuck to his guns. The management reaction to Dr. Herrera's effort at these two plants was interesting. The predecessor who had left behind those problems and was promoted to circuit supervisor got a cash award. Dr. Herrera got nothing except criticism that he hadn't cleaned them up fast enough.

Last July Dr. Herrera arrived at the plant where I am currently assigned. When he came the plant was known as a problem facility. There were cracks in the floor, no overhead cover to serve as a roof in the equipment cleaning room, paint and loose plaster all over the place, condensation over the electrical_tenderizing machine, rusted doors, no rack for dry storage and not even a hot water hose to clean the split saw after it touches condemned carcasses. There were no screens for the windows, which allowed flies to come in. There were rusty light fixtures, and the coolers and the drains were backed up daily. The beef carcasses were touching the rails and the containers were not marked to distinguish between edible and inedible products.

Dr. Herrera has made major efforts to solve all of these problems. You can't make a new plant out of an old one, but I would estimate that this plant is at least 50 percent more sanitary than ever before.

He started using swab tests to check for antibiotics and other illegal drugs-▬

Senator COHEN. Mr. Gee, could you perhaps just move on and talk a little bit about what the reaction of management was to what he had discovered. You don't have to read it. You can just tell us in your own terms. I think that's much better. You just tell the nature of your relationship and what you saw and heard. You don't have to read it. We've got your statement for the record. But tell a little bit about what you observed in terms of management's reaction.

Mr. GEE. OK.

Senator COHEN. Just tell us in your own words. Don't read it. Just talk about management's reaction. We all like to have that paper there. I know I like to have it myself, but it's better if you just talk to us.

Mr. GEE. Well, due to all the controversy involving Dr. Herrera, he was written up four or five times by the circuit supervisor and criticized for doing a poor job, although the other veterinarians that worked with him or behind him were never criticized.

Dr. Herrera was given a letter that his performance was below par, although Dr. Herrera had received awards, TB awards, certificate of merit awards and all the other awards for the last 15 or 20 years. Now this type of deal came down on him.

Well, I worked at the plant and I know that Dr. Herrera is doing a good job, and that's it.

Senator COHEN. Basically he was told that his efforts were unsatisfactory and he could be fired as a result of it.

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