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USDA Ignored Slaughterhouse Safety Violations: Testimony

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U.S. Department of Agriculture officials failed to take action when agency inspectors identified slaughterhouses with illegal and unsafe practices, says a supervisory veterinarian at the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

In testimony to be delivered Thursday at a hearing of the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Dean Wyatt lists cases in which he says he and other inspectors were overruled and even threatened with demotion after citing slaughterhouses for violations, USA Today reported.

"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," Wyatt said in his testimony, according to USA Today, which obtained a copy of the testimony in advance of the hearing.

In recent years, there have been a number of outbreaks of potentially deadly illnesses linked to contaminated meat.

The enforcement problems listed by Wyatt occurred before current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took over the agency, USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver told the newspaper. Weaver said Vilsack is "fully committed" to enforcing safe and human slaughtering rules.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who will chair the congressional committee hearing, said, "The new administration must recognize past wrongs and ensure the proper treatment of animals and the safety of our food supply."

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