The Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service recently celebrated 100 years of protecting consumers by commemorating the centennial anniversary of the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the act that requires the inspection of meat products and that slaughterhouses and processing plants operate under sanitary conditions. A year earlier, Upton Sinclair's book "The Jungle" had exposed unsanitary conditions in the Chicago meatpacking industry, which helped spur passage of the act.
In 2006, the FSIS employs more than 7,600 inspectors working with about 6,000 meat, poultry, and egg product facilities in the United States to ensure that products are safe and wholesome—and bear accurate labels. Personnel also inspect shipments of meat and poultry from other countries to ensure that products meet U.S. food safety requirements.
The inspection service annually incorporates the results of more than 90,000 microbiologic tests for Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella organisms, and Listeria monocytogenes to further the goal of preventing contamination and protecting public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has attributed substantial declines in rates of illness from foodborne pathogens to the implementation of FSIS food safety regulations.
The inspection service employs about 1,200 veterinarians in a variety of positions to protect the public from foodborne illnesses.
More details about the history of food safety in the United States are available at fsis.usda.gov/About_FSIS/100_Years/