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Bret Hanna
Bret Hanna
Attorney • 435-649-2525

Food Inspection in Utah Mired in Problems

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture took over meat-inspection responsibilities at one of Utah’s largest meat packing facilities earlier this year, after critics raised an alarm about the state inspection program. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food provided inspection services at Dale T. Smith & Sons Meat Packing Facility in Draper for years, but the federal government stepped in after concerns were raised about the management of the state’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Program.

The concerns raised by critics of the program date back to the appointment of department Director LuAnn Adams by Governor Herbert almost two years ago.  The list of criticisms include the Director hiring unqualified people and playing favorites and cronyism with those who work for the department, as well as inspectors failing to properly check all animals.  As an example, Warren Hess, former state veterinarian and one of the most vocal critics of the department, points to the lack of qualifications of the current manager of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Program because he is not a licensed veterinarian.  Hess claims that state statute dictates that the manager be a licensed vet.  Hess also takes issue with Adams assigning the responsibility for three important divisions to one individual.  Hess claims that the three divisions, animal branding, veterinarians, and meat and poultry inspection are overseen by the same individual, but that state law requires that animal branding and meat and poultry inspection fall to the state veterinarian.  He also notes that federal level meat inspection is left to licensed vets, and that doing so makes sense given their education and experience with animal industries that is lacking with laymen/laywomen in charge of the programs.

For her part, Adams totally discounts Hess’ criticisms.  She claims that Hess is simply wrong about the requirement that the meat and poultry inspector be a licensed vet.  She also claims that she had the hiring of one person for three programs fully vetted by a state human resources director and the attorney general’s office, although the latter has not been confirmed.  However, all of Adam’s denials of problems within her department beg the question of why the takeover of meat and poultry inspection responsibilities.  If everything is just fine, why did it happen? Whatever the reason, at least for now, it seems that consumers’ interests are being protected by qualified inspectors provided by the federal government.