It was upsetting enough to hear that animals had been abused by slaughterhouse employees in Chino; far worse to think that a meat producer was willing to send beef from "downer" cattle into the food supply -- to public schools, no less. There always will be a certain number of bad operations looking to break the rules. But there's a government agency assigned to catch and stop them. Where was the U.S. Department of Agriculture?
The abuses at Hallmark Meat Packing were uncovered by the Humane Society of the United States, not by the USDA. And this isn't the first time it took outsiders to act on food issues. In 2003, a law firm successfully sued to force supermarkets to label the farmed salmon they sold as artificially colored; the Food and Drug Administration requires the labeling but admitted that it does not enforce the rule. More recently, a nonprofit public advocacy group and then the New York Times tested tuna sushi at restaurants and found levels of mercury that exceeded FDA standards.
Ten years ago, consumer watchdogs complained because the FDA was inspecting only about 2% of imported food. Now it's 1%. Too few FDA inspectors have been trying to stay on top of too many tainted products from China alone -- pet food, toothpaste, fish.