It is legal for meat to have traces of fecal matter but doctors are trying to remove it for the safety of the public.
Doctors from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a medical group comprising 12,000 medical professionals, filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in Washington DC against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to remove traces of fecal matter from meat.
The USDA allows traces of fecal matter in meat as long as the visible fecal matter shall be removed during the trimming process.
To protect the public from diseases and harmful microbes such as E. coli, members of the PCRM are pressuring the USDA to act on their petition filed in 2013 following independent tests on 120 chicken products sold in 15 supermarkets in 10 cities that found 48% of the samples still contained fecal matter.
“We often see birds going down the line with intestines still attached, which are full of fecal contamination,” said a federal inspector in the lawsuit and petition.
“If there is no fecal contamination on the bird’s skin, however, we can do nothing to stop that bird from going down that line.”
“It is more than reasonable to assume that once the bird gets into the chill tank (a large vat of cold water), that contamination will enter the water and contaminate all of the other carcasses in the chiller. That’s why it is sometimes called ‘fecal soup.’”
The PCRM demands the USDA remove the labels such as “wholesome” from packaged meat and replace them with a message warning the consumers that there might be fecal contamination in the meat product as traces of feces are “common and even expected.”
“USDA misleads consumers every time inspectors slap a ‘wholesome’ label on contaminated food,” said Deborah Dubow Press, associate general counsel for PCRM and author of the lawsuit.
“Consumers should be horrified to know that USDA’s standard for wholesomeness is ‘no visible feces.’”
Doctors are hoping that the PCRM will be able to push for improvements in food safety.