Poop is a fact of life. It is also at the center of a new fight in the food-safety world: Has the U.S. government been letting poop sneak by in our meat, or is a nonprofit simply using poop as a sneaky Trojan horse for another agenda? According to a report in the Washington Post, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a group “dedicated to saving and improving human and animal lives through plant-based diets” — has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture over supposed poop contamination in meat. According to the Post, the PCRM
is proposing a new warning label for both poultry and meat that would alert consumers to the possibility that the products may contain fecal matter.
USDA says it has a “zero tolerance” policy for fecal contamination in poultry and meat-processing plants, but this applies only if the fecal contamination is visible.
Um! Yuck! The PCRM even wants to go so far as to remove the word wholesome from inspection of poultry products. In its place, the the group wants something that says, well, the exact opposite: DANGER! THIS MEAT COULD CONTAIN INVISIBLE POOP! The PCRM started this food fight way back in 2013, when it filed a petition claiming that consumers would consider the wholesome products disgusting if they knew about the potential animal feces. The USDA, as you might imagine, argues that this is all horseshit and that meat is fine.
One aspect of this fight is surprisingly not contentious. As the food-safety lawyer Bill Marler puts it to the Post, “If you asked most consumers whether or not there should be a ban on feces in your food, most consumers would say, ‘That’s a really great idea.’” Even in these divisive times, this is something all Americans — vegan, freegan, carnivore, breatharian, pizzavore — can all agree on: Excrement does not belong in food. But is it really in our meat? And if so, have we meat eaters been secretly harming ourselves since, oh, the beginning of human history? It seems that, in this case, the warning is probably unwarranted.