Many of us look for the “Product of USA” sticker on the meat we buy in the supermarket, but we may not be aware that the USDA allows meat raised outside the US to carry that label. It’s a shameful case of government-sanctioned fraud.
Where is the meat you’re buying really from? Action Alert!
Current USDA policy allows foreign meat to be imported to the US and carry the “Product of USA” label if it passes through a USDA-inspected plant. The USDA loophole allows foreign multinational corporations to disguise their products and take advantage of the lucrative US market. There’s good reason to believe that this loophole also violates the federal government’s own policies that prohibit false or misleading labeling.
Polls consistently demonstrate that consumers value transparency, they want to know where their food comes from, and they place a higher premium on meat that is locally produced; domestic ranchers also deserve to compete in a fair and transparent marketplace. This loophole undermines both of these key principles.
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There are also safety concerns. Take mad cow disease for example, which was a real concern a number of years ago. Millions of cattle were becoming infected with the disease in the UK in the early 1990s, prompting a ban on the importation of beef from that country. Other safeguards were put in place by the USDA to prevent mad cow from entering the food supply. However, in 2013 the USDA relaxed regulations for beef imports from countries with a history of mad cow disease. So, if a consumer wanted to take it upon themselves to avoid meat from those countries by buying meat from the US, this loophole would make it impossible to do so.
Labels should mean something, but too often they don’t in our broken food system. Look, for instance, at how the high sugar content of certain “health” foods is obscured by Big Food on the nutrition facts label by being listed in grams rather than a measurement that makes sense to more Americans, like teaspoons. Many consumers buy products with “natural” on the label without knowing that the term is meaningless—foods can have the word “natural” on the package yet still contain artificial ingredients, GMOs, and pesticides. It simply does not pass the laugh test that meat from outside the US can carry the “Product of USA” label. Recall too that country of origin labeling (COOL) was repealed for beef in 2015—despite one poll finding that 92% of Americans supported COOL. We noted the consequences of this repeal two years later, when Brazilian authorities announced a federal investigation into widespread corruption in the country’s meat-packing industry—including some of the largest producers in the world—in which acid and carcinogenic chemicals were added to meat to make it look fresh. Without COOL for beef, Americans had no way of avoiding tainted meat from Brazil.
Unfortunately, it is par for the course for the federal government to sell consumers out to Big Food. The sham GMO labeling bill is yet another case in point: a “mandatory” labeling bill that allows producers to hide the contents of their food in scannable codes or deceptive symbols.
These are all symptoms of a crony capitalist system that uses the power of the federal government to cater to powerful special interests rather than ordinary citizens and small, domestic producers.
There is a federal docket open to accept consumer comments about the USDA’s “Product of USA” policy. All concerned citizens should take action below and tell the USDA that government-sanctioned fraud cannot be allowed to continue.
Action Alert! Tell Congress and the USDA to prohibit government-enforced fraud in “Product of USA” labeling. Please send your message immediately.