Thursday, December 16, 2004

State sends stale meat fraud reply

Late last month, I reported on the Fred Meyer Meat Fraud story. Here, we have a response from a ODA manager which explains why they were clueless:
Mr. Bartley,

Thank you for your questions regarding Fred Meyer Stores and alleged short weight packages of meat.

Question #1: "Why isn't defrauding the public on such a basic commodity as meat worthy of Oregon's resources?"

Any fraud in the State of Oregon is of great concern to everyone - consumers, businesses, and regulatory officials alike. However, in recent years, Oregon's General Fund budget has faced severe shortages and very, very, difficult decisions had to be made by the Agency, the Governor, and the Legislature with the very limited resources that were available. As a result, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Measurement Standards Division's Packaging and Labeling Program was de-funded and is now capable of only very limited responses to complaints and very cursory transaction verifications. Prior to the budget reductions and considering the dollar volume of packaged products sold in the State of Oregon annually, the program operated at a minimum level and was considered an active deterrent to fraud.

Question #2: "I'd sure like to know what Oregon will do to assure that my family isn't defrauded on meat purchases in the future. I'd like not to have to start taking my own scale to the market with me."

Consumer protection is a very important part of Oregon's mission and that of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Furthermore, packaged products, labeling, and method of sale programs are an integral part of any weights and measures agency, including ODA's Measurement Standards Division. There currently is not a fee established for funding of this program. If there is support (i.e., General Fund moneys or fees) from consumers and businesses in the State of Oregon to provide sustained full funding of an effective packaged products, labeling, and method of sale program, then the necessary human resources and equipment can be placed into the field again to help assure correct net contents on packaged items for consumers and fair competition for businesses.

I hope that this is helpful. We appreciate your questions and comments. If you have any further questions that I may be able to assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you, Mr.Bartley.

Best regards,

Clark Cooney.
Field Operations Manager
ODA Measurement Standards Division
503-986-4677 Fax: 503-986-4784 TTY: 503-986-4762

Well, if you want to be protected from fraud by major out-of-state corporations like Kroger, maybe you should ask the governor and these other ODA folks yourself what they will do now. And, if you don't like the answer they give you, let our legislative delegation know you'd rather be protected against meat fraud than pay for Bev Stein's Windmill, ODOT kickbacks, the 32 megabuck Convention Center in Salem (Salem? Oh yeah, great party town for conventions), ODOT SUVs with premium CD players (top of Page 5), not to mention the other bon mots contained therein.

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