As he points out different kinds of meat—mostly pork and beef—that have been freshly butchered and are waiting to be packaged, Ted Pohlman says when raw beef is your business, inspections are part of everyday life.
“After we grind some meat, then the federal government will come in and take a test for ecoli, so we have to be very very careful,” says Pohlman, who is the owner of Custom Killing meat processing plant in Terre Haute.
The facility is regularly inspected by the USDA, which means the company is certified to ship meat all over the country, but until last Friday they were not required to wait for test results before shipping products such as ground beef.
Indiana Board of Animal Health meat and poultry inspection director David Bough says the process was not required, but it was recommended.
“Nearly all of our plants, I’d say 99 percent, are holding product until they get the results, and when it is released, it sometimes is by mistake. One of the employees isn’t aware that testing was taken or something and the product was shipped,” he says.
Forrest Owens is the federal government employee who comes to check Pohlman’s meat. He says the real problem is not having enough state and federal inspectors who can catch problems during and after slaughter.
“I would say tightening the regulations isn’t the factor,” he says. “The number of inspectors available to do the inspection is the factor. Because you can tighten it all you want to, and if there’s only a few people doing it, you can’t get it all done.”
Still, according to Board of Animal Health statistics, 20 percent of recalls between 2007 and 2011 could have been prevented if the regulation had been in place.