The House budget bill slashes $88 million from the agency that inspects the country’s meat and poultry, which could reduce its operations by 18 percent for the remainder of the year. The cuts to the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service could furlough thousands of inspectors and decrease the number of inspections at the nation’s slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants. With fewer inspectors on the job, the quality of inspections could also fall by the wayside, explains David Plunkett, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest: “They could be windshield inspections—when they show up, look through the windshield, and then drive off.”
Without sufficient monitoring, the risk of tainted meat in the nation’s food supply is likely to increase, Plunkett and other advocates say. “If the cows are not slaughtered appropriately and cleanly—if you’re not careful, manure is often on the hide,” which could in turn contaminate the meat with E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria, says Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. There’s also the economic impact to consider: Slaughterhouses may be forced to close if there are big cutbacks in inspections, since such facilities must be inspected daily to remain open.