USDA Denies Plant-Based Diet Advocate Group’s Request that FSIS Require All Meat to Be Tested for COVID-19
On July 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) denied a petition submitted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a plant-based diet advocate group, which requested that USDA require all processing plants operating in the U.S. and all facilities shipping meat and poultry products into the United States to test their products for the presence of SARS-CoV-2.
In its May 20, 2020 petition, PCRM also asked that FSIS require these meat/poultry facilities to report the number of workers or worker family members with presumptive or confirmed SARSCoV-2 infection and those dying of COVID-19 to local public health authorities on a weekly basis. In addition, PCRM requested that USDA post the number of FSIS inspectors with presumptive or confirmed SARS- CoV-2 infections and those dying of COVID- 19 on the USDA website on a weekly basis. PCRM also stated that it wanted meat and poultry to carry a label stating: “Warning: Workers in the U.S. meat and poultry processing facilitates have been sickened or killed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and this product has not been certified virus-free.”
In its letter denying PCRM’s petition, USDA stated that public health and food safety experts have found no evidence to support the belief that COVID-19 is transmitted by meat or poultry products. USDA also noted that PCRM’s petition did not include any reference studies or supporting information to show that COVID-19 can be transmitted by meat and poultry products or any other food. USDA stated that if the purpose of PCRM’s petition is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, USDA believes that resources would be better spent by implementing measures in the Center for Disease/Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among establishment workers. By way of background, PCRM previously petitioned USDA to declare feces an adulterant in meat, but USDA denied that petition.