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terested in protecting the reputation if it deserves it, but not if it doesn't.

That is our interest and it is kind of in a way a separate problem, but it's very much related to the issue here this morning.

We again now probably should move to Mr. Leonard and then we'll come back to the other witnesses if you can stay for questions. Mr. Leonard.


Mr. LEONARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will summarize my summary for you so we can get on.

I served as the Administrator for the Consumer and Marketing Service from 1967 to 1969. That is the agency or was the agency at USDA responsible for meat and poultry inspection.

When I left in 1969 we had a renewed legislative mandate for risk avoidance. We had 10,000 inspectors on staff. We had an adequate budget provided by Congress and we had merged meat and poultry inspection to indicate to the industry that the Federal Government was in control of food safety.

That situation has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Congress no longer sets food safety policy. Meat and poultry inspection is understaffed and underfunded. There are only 7,000 inspectors at the present time to handle nearly twice the workload as compared to 1968.

Meat and poultry inspection is really no longer in charge of food safety. As a consequence, the incident of food poisoning caused by salmonella, for example, has more than doubled.

Since 1960, according to the NAS report that came out this week, the number of cases of food poisoning attributed to salmonella has increased from 8 per 100,000 to 19 per 100,000 in 1984. Most of the increase occurred after 1977 when USDA authorized feces to be washed from poultry carcasses.

Preventing contact with salmonella is the single most important task in processing the National Academy of Science report said. Now the industry says that this scandal is the fault of the consumer. Consumers should wash the poultry, clean up carefully in the kitchen and cook poultry meat thoroughly. Blaming the victim is an arrogant diversion and it's also a deception.

Studies document that salmonella cannot be controlled when it enters the kitchen on poultry. I would be happy to share that study with the committee.

As has been discussed here already, the reports of food poisoning that come to the Government are reports of contamination at commercial locations, and the reason for that is simply that when it occurs in the home people can't believe that they have been poisoned by food that has been approved as safe by the Federal Government.

Now I don't understand why industry cannot control microbial contamination. The poultry industry is the most highly integrated meat processing industry in the United States. Three firms control most of the output, and 45 firms account for over 90 percent of production.

1 See p. 173 for Mr. Leonard's prepared statement.

Now how can an industry that can control growing, processing, packaging, merchandising and marketing say they cannot control bacterial contamination. They can, but they won't.

This simple fact more than anything else defines the policy issue for Congress and the management task for the Executive Branch who is in charge of food safety.

Now the heart of the matter is a policy dispute. It's a question of values and priorities. The industry and the Department of Agriculture and their consultants tell us the issue is technology and science, but that is not true. USDA says the problem can be solved with a new procedure, that is with a process they describe as risk assessment.

Risk assessment as it is currently proposed is voodoo management based on pseudo science. The GAO report indicated that USDA lacks the data now to management a risk assessment system. That's exactly what the National Academy of Science report said, that the data is not available to do risk assessment and that it will take 10 to 20 years before the data is available and we understand how to use it before we can implement a system like that.

The policy question for Congress is whether to continue to employ risk avoidance as the law requires now or to adopt risk assessment as USDA and the industry wants. Risk avoidance requires the Federal Government with the cooperation of industry to prevent hazardous products from entering the food supply. Risk assessment under USDA's definition means allowing hazardous products in the food supply at a level of risk that the Government will determine for us.

Risk assessment shifts responsibility for safety to the citizen and it changes the role of Government from an active or protective stance to a passive stance. Under risk assessment the Government tells consumers the nature of the risk, and if injury occurs, then it is the fault of the consumer or the victim for taking that risk. It is blame the victim. Risk assessment is a phrase that cloaks the real intent of the action, just like the phrase "special treatment" was used by the Nazi bureaucrats to describe the program to slaughter Jews.

Continuous inspection was and is the only system to carry out a policy of risk avoidance in industry where slaughter and processing occur at many scattered locations. It works because control of food safety is decentralized through public employees who carry out a public health mission. At the same time plant employees are carrying out a profit mission. Being there as a public symbol keeps the plant honest.

Inspectors and veterinarians do for you and for me and all consumers what you and I would do if we could inspect the meat and poultry and food products that we purchase and consume.

When Congress approved last year the legislation to eliminate continuous inspection of meat and poultry product processing, you gouged out my eyes. Without the inspector the consumer is blind. Continuous inspection is the management system to carry out risk avoidance. It works if it has the right tools. That includes a clear definition of what its mission is. It has a management that is dedicated to carry out that mission. It has in-service training.

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There is research on animal and poultry diseases that are transmissible to humans and on pathogens on their detection and control. There is public education and there are other tools, including the NAS concept of risk assessment if it can be successfully translated from theory 20 years from now into practice.

We have allowed risk avoidance to degenerate and decay as a public health policy and program. Consumers are ready now to help begin rebuilding an effective and well-managed inspection program. For us it's a matter of health and survival.

Thank you.

Senator LEVIN. Thank you, Mr. Leonard.

First, Mr. Blaylock, let me ask this question of you and I'm going to ask the other witnesses basically the same question. It has to do with whether or not we should change the way we inspect, the mechanism that we inspect, for instance, poultry, and that was the example we used earlier, coming down a line. We now visually, most of the inspectors are looking visually at each bird, 35 a minute as I remember, two inspectors looking at 70 birds per minute.

Now the question is whether or not those inspectors would be put to better use if we put them back into the production line which means looking at the washing process, testing feed and examining the handling of poultry from start to finish?

We had testimony earlier that it would be better in the eyes of both a study and our Department of Ag representative if we used the same inspectors we've got now-this isn't different people-but took them away from this visual inspection of the bird to see if a wing's broken or if it has a bruise, which is okay esthetically, but doesn't do a lot for health, and move those same people back into a more systemic investigation or inspection, and I'm wondering whether or not you have any comment on that suggestion which we do believe will be soon forthcoming?

Mr. BLAYLOCK. Mr. Chairman, of course I'm not in the plant, but I do have a comment and then I'll let Jim Murphy who works at plants answer in more detail. There are certain diseases that you're trying to detect that can be detected by visual inspection, and if the scientific community comes up with a process to detect those diseases absent a visual inspection, then it's fine. So far nobody has done that.

What you're saying is let's check the feed, as an example, for the chemical problem and let's do sampling for the salmonella, but then you have other diseases and other contaminations that exist. As an example, how do you check to see if that carcass has been contaminated by fecal matter? Somebody has got to look at it.

Senator LEVIN. The proposal we understand we'll be getting from the FSIS is that there be a random sampling of that, of the visual, that at one time or another an inspector come and make a visual sample for that type of a problem, but that we spend more of our resources on the systemic problem to get at the salmonella problems since you don't get at salmonella by this visual inspection at all.

Now we have limited resources. Assuming that we got 2,000 inspectors looking at poultry, or whatever the figure is. We now have half to three-quarters of them doing a visual inspection, which ap

parently the one study says doesn't really get to the source of a problem.

My question is given the limited resources, do you know whether you would support or object to the shift of some of those inspectors to the systemic investigation rather than to the visual inspection? Mr. BLAYLOCK. Mr. Chairman, let me deal with the resources and then let Jim talk to you specifically about it. But as far as the resources, what I have said and what we're saying to you, to this committee, is you need to make a determination on what resources are needed out there to protect the public based on the answer to the question, and I don't know the answer.

But let me just ask you a question. An inspector is checking every 20 birds, we'll say, in this process that you're proposing or has been proposed. Do you want to eat that in between bird that nobody looked at that may be contaminated with fecal material? How do you make sure? I mean just like the occasional visit to the plant. What happens during the time the person is not there?

Senator LEVIN. I would be happy to try to answer that question. My offhand reaction would be based on just what I've heard this morning and no more, that if I thought there was a greater likelihood that I would get sick if I had a person doing a visual examination than if I had that person doing the systemic examination, I would rather do the visual one myself when I get the bird to see if the wing is broken when I buy it.

Now I would rather have both. I would obviously much rather have the visual examination and the systemic evaluation, but that's not my question, because that's the easy answer and that's not what we're dealing with because we've got limited resources. The question is if we've got the 2,000 inspectors out there, is it better to move some of them to a systemic evaluation to try to reduce the incidence of salmonella, for instance, or is it better to keep them going on this 30 birds per minute visual inspection? That's the question. I'm not arguing it because I don't know enough about it, and I hope some day to.

You're going to answer that, Mr. Murphy?

Mr. MURPHY. What we originally went on the line for and inspect for is diseases such as Leukosis, which is cancer, paracyculytis, which is a pneumonia like symptom, cynovitis, an inflammation of a joint and you septicemia and toxemia, et cetera.

Now last year these 2,000 inspectors condemned, I understand Dr. Houston I think said 55 million of these chickens for these diseases last year alone. Now we used to condemn for contamination. Then we went to trimming and then we went to washing. Today we are washing this fecal contamination out.

This salmonella is a serious problem, but I just feel if I had to choose between feeding my family a fully cooked chicken that had salmonella versus a fully cooked chicken that's full of cancer, I'll take the salmonella.

Senator PRYOR. I hope that's not our only choice. [Laughter.] Senator LEVIN. He presented a choice which I don't think is a choice, but if it is, I think I agree with you.

Mr. BLAYLOCK. What he's saying, Senator, is there are other diseases we're looking for and nobody has come up with a process to make sure we're detecting those. There are certain things you can

detect by seeing. Well, does it make more sense to run through some laboratory type sampling test, which is complex, and is just like the salmonella thing. That takes four days roughly we're told for them to check that out and see if that bird was contaminated. But we do know that most of the salmonella seems to come from the fecal contamination.

So if we can in a visual process, you know, reduce that risk, and we're never going to be able to guarantee a hundred percent, but if you reduce that risk by simple visual process, then it makes sense to stay with the visual process. If there is some other process that somebody comes forward with, and nobody has yet.

Senator LEVIN. I think the National Academy of Science is proposing that we move to a different kind of inspection, that we have random inspection in order to make sure that the visual inspection is carried out properly by the plant, that we go randomly and make sure that the plant is continuing its visual inspection of its own chickens, and that in order to get to the salmonella problem we use our Government resources to get to the systemic causes of that salmonella. I think that's the issue.

Your testimony, Mr. Blaylock, is that you would disagree with the NAS I take it on that issue.

Mr. BLAYLOCK. I'm simply saying they do not come forward with a solution. We have scanned that report. It's just been out a couple of days.

Senator LEVIN. It seems to me that one of the key issues that Congress is going to face, not necessarily this Committee, but Congress is going face is whether or not we are going to change that requirement that every product and every carcass be visually inspected in order to put our resources into a more allegedly profitable kind of inspection, and I say allegedly because I haven't reached a conclusion that it's more profitable frankly.

Mr. BLAYLOCK. It very well may be.

Senator LEVIN. But it may be, and I think that is going to be at least a basic issue which comes out of these hearings, and this committee will be reaching I hope some kind of an assessment on that after we've heard back from the FSIS and after we have had a chance to read the National Academy report.

Mr. BLAYLOCK. I'll be more than glad to. Could I make a point that ties somewhat to the whistleblower thing a while ago and this random inspection.

If the Department had sufficient penalty and if a plant was found violating the standards and the process, and there are those out there that will and those that won't, but if they are found to be doing that, if there was sufficient penalty there and not just the fact that well an inspector is coming back in the plant for 15 days, you know, so that nothing changes.

We've seen a constant practice of dual standards, you know, since I've been involved over the 20 years with these people. As an example, if an inspector violates some of the rules by saying taking a gift from the company, and that goes on in these situations from time to time, then the inspector is fired and very well may do time. There is nothing done to the company.

They will simply take the individual of the company who was involved in the process and move him to some other position and

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