For the second time in 15 months, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee failed to gain Senate support for an amendment that would have forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to withdraw inspection from any meat and poultry plants that failed any microbiological standard, according to an American Meat Institute (AMI) release.

"This misguided approach would have punished decent meat and poultry plants, tied the hands of USDA with respect to enforcement and ignored the many scientific questions surrounding microbiological standards," said AMI president J. Patrick Boyle.

During Senate consideration of the Harkin amendment, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), offered a second degree amendment that would have required the Secretary of Agriculture to use the best available science in promulgating new regulations for microbiological standards. The Nelson amendment was cosponsored by Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.). Sen. Harkin made a motion to table the Nelson-Miller amendment, but the motion failed 45 to 50.

AMI believes the Nelson-Miller provided a sound scientific basis for formulating microbiological standards for meat and poultry products.