Statement from the Food Safety and Inspection Service
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. FSIS successfully carries out its mission to protect public health by strictly enforcing safeguards.
There are more than 6,200 federally inspected establishments in the United States and FSIS assigns a Public Health Veterinarian (PHV) and FSIS inspectors to every slaughter establishment. Inspectors and PHVs observe the daily handling and slaughter of all cattle, sheep, swine, goats, or other livestock species ensuring plants comply with the statutory requirements of the Federal Meat and Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. They verify that the establishment operates under sanitary conditions, follow their food safety plan and comply with all FSIS regulations pertaining to slaughter and processing operations and take corrective action, where needed.
FSIS inspectors conduct carcass-by-carcass inspection at all federally inspected slaughter facilities. FSIS inspectors conduct ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection of livestock presented for slaughter. Federal inspectors are trained to look for abnormalities and signs that could indicate disease or health conditions that would prohibit the animal from entering the food supply. If a carcass, part of a carcass or other meat food product is adulterated, it is not allowed to bear the USDA mark of inspection and be sold to consumers. For example, if a carcass shows a widespread animal diseases then it would not be safe for human consumption, and the entire carcass is condemned, denatured, and diverted away from the human food supply.
FSIS veterinarians and inspectors collect samples to determine levels of drug residues, animal diseases, or presence of microbiological pathogens. FSIS laboratories evaluate these samples to verify that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe and wholesome. FSIS requires official establishments to hold or maintain control of product tested for adulterants until the results become available. When a product is considered unacceptable due to the presence of a violative residue or pathogen, FSIS considers that carcass adulterated and it is prevented from entering commerce by FSIS.
Photos circulating the internet can easily be misleading and often times altered. To make a point, Snopes uses an unauthorized photo and references an 18-year-old misleading article about food inspection. USDA inspectors take their jobs seriously. FSIS has a rigorous food safety system, the safest food supply in the world and USDA works hard every day to ensure it.