John Munsell

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John Munsell ran a USDA-inspected meat plant for 34 years, which had been in the family for 59 years. Raised in Miles City, Montana and educated at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT, John returned to the family business subsequent to employment at Continental Oil and Target Stores. Having sold the business in 2005, John subsequently opened a deli/bakery at a local retail grocery store, and is currently employed by Miles Community College as a Biofuels/Renewable Energy Coordinator. Married, with two daughters and six grandchildren, John's passionate focus has been to reveal institutionalized shortcomings in USDA's deregulated meat inspection program, and to protect the rights of small plants to remain in business in the absence of unethical government enforcement actions.

Latest Articles

I am writing this in response to the article appearing in Food Safety News on Dec. 27 regarding Elsa Murano’s being considered for Secretary of Agriculture. The article refers to Murano’s previous service as the USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from 2001-2004. Prior to Murano’s arrival at FSIS, every USDA-inspected plant was required to develop and implement HACCP plans (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans). When FSIS introduced HACCP to…
We just might be witnessing a watershed change in USDA attitudes regarding testing for E. coli O157:H7, corrective actions subsequent to adverse lab test results, and tracebacks to the true source of contamination.   Due diligence must be addressed these next 12 months to monitor USDA/FSIS’ willingness to implement meaningful reforms as suggested by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).  Public revelation by OIG of faulty FSIS meat inspection policies should provide the required…
A central focus in the controversy over the use of ammoniated hydroxide to sanitize beef trimmings are the claims that the source meat may be highly pathogenic, otherwise destined for dog food or laced with dangerous bacteria. So why would the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) publicly state that beef trimmings are “high risk,” which would seem an embarrassing admission? The fact that USDA knowingly allows “high risk” meat to be…
On February 2, I wrote a commentary that appeared on Food Safety News entitled “USDA Inspected and Approved High-Risk Meat.”  One sentence in the editorial stated “USDA has concluded that Hannaford’s high risk practices likely led to this outbreak,” a reference to Salmonella infections linked to supermarket ground beef. Investigators were unable to trace the contaminated ground beef to any one supplier. USDA officials subsequently contacted me, claiming that the agency did not say…
The Hannaford chain of grocery stores in the Northeast recently recalled ground beef products which were laced with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella. Like most other retail chains, Hannafords purchases all its meat from outside source slaughter plants.  Salmonella and E. coli are  “enteric” bacterium, which is defined as originating from within animals’ intestines, and is thus present in manure.  Live beef arriving at slaughter plants frequently carry a sizeable amount of manure on their…
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it would close 5 of its 15 Food Safety and Inspection (FSIS) District Offices as part of a consolidation that will decrease the agency’s budget and save taxpayer dollars. This financially prudent move prompted Andrew Lorenz, deputy district manager of the agency’s office in Minneapolis, one of the five offices to be closed, to tell the Associated Press, “They wiped out the entire Midwest.” Such a statement resonates…
On Aug. 3, 2011, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave a speech in Milwaukee that included the following statement: “In 90 days, I expect the agency [FSIS] to announce the first step in transforming our traceback policy”. The USDA”s Food Safety and Inspection Service announcement is now six weeks overdue, and the agency has yet to publicly announce even “THE FIRST STEP” in transforming its mostly nonexistent traceback policies. It would be helpful to consider…
The National Research Council (NRC) recently suggested that FSIS release of establishment-specific data could benefit food safety.  Pertinent excerpts of media reports include the following statements: “Substantial benefits can be gained by publicly posting (a) enforcement data from reports written by inspectors, and (b) testing data from standard laboratory tests.”  “The report comes in light of the Obama administration’s push for increased transparency across federal agencies.” Release of this data “could introduce a new incentive…
If USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) had been assigned the responsibility to investigate last years’ oil spill in the Gulf, and provide solutions, the agency would have concluded: 1.) Louisiana, Mississippi, and other states are responsible for the environmental degradation because they allowed contaminants to enter their boundaries. 2.) Petroleum is a contaminant only when it arrives at the destination, namely, the coastlines.  Prior to its arrival, petroleum is a relatively harmless minor irritant. 3.) Louisiana, Mississippi…
Editor’s note: Last week we concluded a series by John Munsell that explained how his small meat plant in Miles City, MT, ran afoul of USDA’s meat inspection practices. John asked us to post one more article as a coda to his saga. After my meat plant recalled 270 pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 in January, 2002, someone notified me that a lawyer in Seattle had posted the U.S. Department…