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Animal Identification Does Not Equal Food Safety

By food & water watch

Consumers get a lot of information about the things they buy, whether it’s monitoring the progress of a package making its way across the country or the label in a shirt that says where the fabric was made and the final product assembled.

So should consumers expect any less when it comes to food? Everything from public opinion polls to the explo-sive growth of programs that connect consumers directly to farmers show that consumers don’t want mystery meat — they want to know what they’re eating and whether it is safe.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and big meat companies are trying to use consumers as their cover for pushing a livestock tracking system that could permanently change the structure of the meat indus-try, and not for the better.

The tracking program is the National Animal Identifica-tion System (NAIS), a registry for livestock and for the premises where animals live or visit. The stated purpose of the system is to aid government responses to outbreaks of animal disease, and pressure for the program increased after the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States. Supporters of the program point to a demand for “traceability” by export customers in countries like Japan and Korea. Right now, the federal government says the program is voluntary, but some states have forced livestock producers into the system against their will, and state gov-ernments and trade associations are putting tremendous pressure on producers to sign up.

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