USDA Says Story Exaggerated Effects of Computer System Failure

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the story about the two-day computer system failure that networks inspectors at meatpacking and processing plants across the country earlier this month was exaggerated by the New York Times. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service says the Times' story did not accurately represent the state of meat inspection during the system's downtime. When the system went down - USDA FSIS Inspection Administrator Alfred Almanza says inspectors were forced to use a paper system for documenting sample collection and other tasks - but overall - they went about their normal inspection routines. Almanza says consumers have not been put at additional risk from this shutdown and he is 110-percent certain that no contaminated product left a facility while the system was down.

Almanza says inspectors continue performing all of their normal tasks in the event of a computer system failure - monitoring production lines, ensuring operations are following hazard analysis plans and physically inspecting every carcass that comes through the door. Even the sample collection process was only set back - not completely sidelined - while the system was shut down - according to USDA Spokesman Adam Tarr. While there were fewer samples taken during the downtime - Tarr says inspectors know how to take samples without the system. Almanza says most inspectors learned how to do their jobs long before the computer system existed - and while some inspectors complain about system errors - USDA is working to improve it.

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