Food safety is reason enough to kill the Processing Revival and Interstate Meat Exemption Act, otherwise known as the PRIME Act, according to some of the industry’s most powerful players.
The North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association put themselves on record for the 118th Congress as again opposing the PRIME Act. The PRIME Act is seen as “vital to small-scale producers, their communities, and consumers who demand local products” by the legislation’s sponsors.
NCBA President Todd Wilkinson says the nation’s largest organization for the cattle industry “is in favor of reducing regulatory burdens, but not at the expense of food safety,” He calls the PRIME Act ” well-intentioned,” but allowing uninspected beef to enter the retail market is dangerous to consumers.
“American consumers rely on rigorous USDA inspection to ensure the safety and quality of their meat and poultry,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “Allowing the meat to enter commerce without inspection – and without alerting consumers they are buying uninspected meat — jeopardizes food safety and will undermine consumer confidence in all meat products.”
If passed, the PRIME Act would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act to allow custom slaughter facilities to sell uninspected meat directly to consumers, to restaurants and food service, and at retail. The Act currently permits custom slaughter facilities to harvest livestock for the personal use of the owner of the animal. The food produced may not enter commerce. There is no continuous inspection and no veterinarian is required to assess the health of the livestock.
Further, federally inspected facilities, and state-inspected facilities with cooperative agreements with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), have inspectors continuously conducting oversight of operations to ensure the safety and quality of meat and poultry and the health and wellness of the livestock. Should a problem occur, products bearing the mark of USDA inspection can be traced to protect consumers.
“It is important for the American economy and the entire meat value chain that the safety of our meat and poultry is never taken for granted. The meat and poultry industry, and the taxpayer, has invested billions of dollars in food safety protections, research, and infrastructure to ensure we have the safest meat in the world,” said Potts. “While this bill may be well-intentioned, it poses especially unnecessary risks given the many resources available to help new and small facilities gain inspection from FSIS.”
The PRIME Act was reintroduced earlier this year into the 118th Congress by Reps. Thomas Massie, R- KY., and Chellie Pingree, D- ME. in the House and by Sens. Angus King, I- Maine, and Rand Paul, R-KY. The current bill appears to be no different than earlier versions that failed during previous sessions.
However, it may be picking up more steam than previously.
Among its now significant bipartisan support are original sponsors in the House including Reps. Jeff Duncan, R-SC., Jared Huffman, D-CA., Randy Feenstra, R-IA, Darren Soto, D-FL., Tim Burchett, R-TN., Ken Buck, R-CO., Mo Brooks, R-AL., Warren Davidson, R-OH, Paul Gosar, R-AZ., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA., Louie Gohmert, R-TX, Ted Budd, R-NC., Ralph Norman, R-SC., Chip Roy, R-TX, Scott Perry, R-PA, Michael Cloud, R-LA., Tom McClintock, R-CA, Glenn Grothman, R-WS., Debbie Lesko, R-AZ., Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA., Nancy Mace, R-SC., Matt Rosendale, R-MT, Lauren Boebert, R-CO., Andy Biggs, R-AZ., Jason Smith, R-MoO, and Matt Gaetz, R-FL
If passed, Prime Act supporters say the bill will allow states to set their own standards for processing meat sold within their borders. It would permit states to pass their own laws and regulations to allow custom-exempt processing facilities to slaughter and process meat for intrastate commercial.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)