The purpose of inspection is to eliminate from the food supply all meat considered to be unsound, unhealthy, unwholesome, or unfit for human consumption. It is designed to: 1) protect the consumer; 2) give official assurance of wholesomeness and proper labeling; 3) detect and locate communicable diseases that may further contaminate the meat-animal population or endanger human health; and 4) minimize the presence of foodborne pathogens in meat and poultry.[3] Meat processors are required by law to utilize federal and/or state inspection systems (state inspection must be equal to or better than the federal inspection system) to ensure that the meat that passes in and out of their facility is wholesome and safe. However, facilities that choose to utilize state inspection systems are not permitted to sell and transport meat products across state lines.[4]

State and federal meat inspectors can be: 1) veterinary inspectors who have obtained a degree in Veterinary Medicine; or 2) lay inspectors (qualifications range from a high school education to food technologists with degrees from accredited universities) under the direct supervision of a veterinary inspector who has expertise in the anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and pathology of meat animals.[5] These inspectors have several responsibilities, including but not limited to: 1) facilities construction and operational sanitation; 2) antemortem (preharvest) inspection; 3) postmortem (meat and carcass) inspection; 4) product reinspection and manufacturing; 5) control of condemned product; 6) laboratory analysis; 7) marketing and labeling; 8) imported products; and 9) exotic animal inspection.1-4-1

Of these responsibilities, ante- and postmortem inspections are the most instrumental in preventing the sale and distribution of unwholesome or unfit product. Antemor-tem inspection involves the visual appraisal of livestock prior to harvest to identify animals unfit for entry into the meat supply. Animals suspected of a disease condition or showing other conditions that may result in condemnation are retained and identified as ''U.S. Suspect.'' If during the antemortem inspection an animal displays obvious symptoms of disease, the animal is identified as ''U.S. Condemned.''[5] Postmortem inspection involves the palpation and visual appraisal of several major lymph nodes and glands, internal organs, and other tissues. Carcasses fit for entry into the meat supply are identified as ''U.S. Inspected and Passed,'' whereas those carcasses found to be unwholesome or unfit for human consumption are identified as ''U.S. Inspected and Condemned'' and eliminated from the human food chain. All condemned materials, parts, portions, organs or glands are to be: 1) rendered for inedible fats, greases, or oils; 2) made into animal feed or fertilizer (tankage); 3) destroyed by incineration; 4) chemically denatured; or 5) held at — 10°F for five days and sold for animal feed.[3]

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