Firing State Meat Inspectors


The Schaefer administration's plan to abolish the state's 39-member meat-inspection team April 1 leaves some local livestock growers, processors and distributors quite unhappy. They fear takeover of these duties by the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service will force them to absorb added expenses, unless passed on to consumers.

We don't see why that should be necessary. Long before Maryland began inspecting much home-grown meat and poultry traded within state borders the federal agency did quite well providing such services. The federal government proved to be both careful and resourceful in keeping contaminated meat from being sold at butcher shops.

Why do meat dealers want to retain state inspection? Because of the leniency they are allowed by the local inspectors. Not that inspectors show favoritism or lower the state's standards, which parallel federal requirements. They merely give meat dealers who need it more time to comply with inspection standards.

Most of the same inspectors are likely to be hired to expand federal services, anyway. That is fine, inasmuch as the same standards required by the state are also required by federal agents.

Those who complain about losing familiar and patient state inspectors should ask themselves why they need a longer time or special attention to prepare their meats for sale. Other Maryland meat and poultry operators who sell their products out of state, and therefore come under compliance of federal inspection, don't seem to need that extra time.

We also wonder why growers, processors and butchers believe it is necessary to impose another cost on state taxpayers. Cutting out the state meat inspectors will save $125,000 this fiscal year and $616,000 next year. That should give butchers -- and especially their customers -- some solace.

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