Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "USDA" ...

  • A Game of Chicken

    Over the course of a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not one, not two, not three, but four opportunities to warn the public about salmonella outbreaks involving Foster Farms chicken. Each time, they hemmed and hawed, worrying more about the threat of legal action from a corporate giant than about protecting consumers. Health reporter Lynne Terry was the first journalist in America to identify and write about this alarming trend. With reporters from Frontline, The Center for Investigative Reporting and the New York Times circling around the story, she beat them all with a stunning and illuminating examination of the failures of the USDA. In her year-long investigation, Terry set out to determine if the USDA’s notoriously slow handling of a major salmonella outbreak in 2013-2014 was an isolated case. It wasn’t. She reviewed thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents dating back to 2003. What she found was disturbing: More than 1,000 people had rushed to their doctors with bouts of food poisoning. They had no idea what made them sick. But federal regulators did. Those same federal officials took virtually no steps to protect consumers from bad chicken. Health officials in Oregon and Washington had pushed vigorously for federal action, having identified clear and convincing evidence of problems. But the USDA wouldn’t budge. Terry’s meticulous reporting identified these themes: •USDA officials are afraid of lawsuits. The agency is so worried about being sued by companies that they’ve set an almost impossible bar for evidence, even rejecting samples of tainted chicken that state health agencies believed would help clinch their case. •Government inspectors are pressured to go easy on food processors. In one notable case, the USDA transferred an inspector after Foster Farms complained he wrote too many citations. •The USDA succumbed to further pressure from Foster Farms. After strong pushback from the company’s lawyers, the agency backed away from citing an unequivocal connection linking the company to a 2004 outbreak – even though the evidence pointed only to Foster Farms.
  • Farmaceuticals

    A Reuters investigation details the drugs fed to farm animals and the risks posed to humans.
  • How the USDA’s new ‘chicken rule’ could change what you eat, and how it’s inspected

    This special investigative report from KCPT's Hale Center for Journalism explored the possible impact of a new federal regulation known as the “chicken rule” - that could be one of the most far reaching changes in U.S. meat inspection history. Weeks before it went into effect, reporter Mike McGraw investigated how the chicken rule will allow poultry plant employees — instead of USDA inspectors — to help determine whether chicken is contaminated or safe to eat. McGraw also investigated the impact of the severe shortage of federal inspectors in slaughterhouses - critics and some inspectors claimed some meat in supermarkets stamped as “USDA inspected” may never have been inspected at all.
  • Dispute over drug in feed limiting US meat exports

    Ractopamine, a controversial veterinary drug used widely in pork production to boost growth and leanness, is limiting US meat exports. An investigation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration records found that more pigs were reported to have suffered adverse effects from ractopamine than any other pork drug. The report, produced by the Food and Environment Reporting Network and published on msnbc.com, found that ractopamine had not only sparked complaints about animal welfare, but had also raised concerns about potential human health impacts. China, Taiwan, the EU and others had all raised concerns about the gaps in science backing the safety of the drug, which as been approved as safe by the FDA. Much of the available research used in international and US safety assessments was sponsored by Elanco, the drug company that makes ractopamine.
  • Anatomy of a Recall

    The series had its origin in a recall announcement. Ground beef sold by Maine-based Hannaford Foods had been linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 14 people in seven states. On Dec. 15, the grocery chain announced the recall of all its in-store ground beef with a sell-by date of Dec. 17 or earlier. When officials stonewalled on basic questions, our reporters worked with dozens of sources, including food safety experts, former USDA employees, butchers, agriculture academics and the outbreak victims themselves to demonstrate how this one outbreak, the latest of scores of similar outbreaks nationwide, was a result of federal regulators and local retailers knowingly ignoring best practices that could have prevented the outbreak in the first place, or allowed investigators to trace the source of the salmonella contamination.
  • Stamping Out Fraud: Uncovering Rogue Food Stamp Retailers

    A Scripps Howard News Service investigation has found found dozens of individuals who have been banned as food stamp merchants yet nonetheless remained in business in communities across the country because of lax governmental oversight. Scripps later identified more flaws in the program's oversight: Convicted thieves and cheats are running food-stamp stores around the nation, even though federal law is supposed to prohibit them from doing so.
  • The Cruelest Show On Earth

    "The Cruelest Show on Earth" documents a disturbing history of injury, illness, abuse, and fatal accidents in Ringling's famed heard of performing elephants- and the chronic failure of the USDA to intervene, even at the urging of the agency's own investors.
  • Puppy Pipeline

    The Post tracked a puppy mill pipeline stretching from the Ozarks to South Florida, one that brought thousands of sometimes-sick puppies from mass-operations to local pet stores. At least 2,500 puppies were delivered to Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties from out-of-states breeders in an 11-month period. Roughly one in three of those came from breeders or distributors cited for problems by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees wholesale dog breeding. Citations varied from keeping animals in too-small and rusting cages with exposed nails or wires, to caked feces, to infestations of roaches and other insects that covered the walls and ceilings of kennels. In dozens of cases, kennel owners averted USDA inspection entirely.
  • "Fowl Play"

    In "Fowl Play," writer Tula Karras warns consumers of the potential dangers lurking in their chicken dinners. Arsenic and other harmful bacteria have been found in poultry, making it possible for those who consume it to become ill. Many chicken plants rely on "visual" safety "inspections" even though harmful bacteria cannot be seen by the "naked eye."
  • Following the Money: Earmarks and Waste

    The series tracks and investigates "government waste and Congressional earmarks." It uncovered "NASA's extravagant parties, USDA assigning undercover agents to spy on Hemingway's cats, a Congressman spending your tax dollars on a monument to himself" and more.