USDA Responds to Petition on COVID-19 in Meat and Poultry Plants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a response to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s petition urging the agency to require meat and poultry processing plants to publish information about COVID-19 testing and infection rates at their facilities and to include on their product labels the statement “Warning: Workers in U.S. meat and poultry processing facilities have been sickened or killed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and this product has not been certified virus-free.” USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service states that it does not have the authority to require facilities to report on the health information of their workers.
The agency’s response further notes that the proposed warning statement “is misleading because it inaccurately implies that meat and poultry products that have not been ‘certified as virus-free’ may transmit COVID-19 or are somehow unsafe. As discussed above, public health and food safety experts have found no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with meat or poultry products. Thus, we are denying your request to amend the safe handling labeling regulations because we believe the requested warning statement would cause meat and poultry products to be misbranded.”