Alison Kosakowski, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, 802-828-2179
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
In response to several reports of unscrupulous practices, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) is strongly cautioning consumers to be wary of door-to-door meat sellers. VAAFM is working closely with the police to investigate this issue.
Although there are several legitimate door-to-door meat sales companies licensed in Vermont, some companies are selling meat without adhering to the appropriate requirements and without proper licensure.
There have been reports of sellers arriving unannounced at Vermont residences, using high-pressure tactics to sell meat of questionable origin to homeowners. Similar “Meat Truck Scams” have been reported across the nation, from Washington State to Pennsylvania. Consumers claim they were sold over-priced, poor quality meat.
VAAFM strongly encourages Vermonters to use the utmost caution when considering purchasing meat from a door-to-door meat truck. Consumers should trust their instincts and follow these tips to avoid being scammed:
1. Ask to see the company’s Retail Meat License: VAAFM requires vendors who sell in Vermont to be properly licensed and to carry the license with them. The license must be issued by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets in order for the seller to be eligible to sell in Vermont. If you have a question, contact VAAFM to determine the license status of a vendor.
2. Ask to see literature from the company (brochure, business card, etc. for review): Reputable companies will have a local sales office, often with a published pricing list. It is important to get the company’s name, place of origin, address, phone number, salesperson’s full name, and product return policy – prior to making a purchasing decision.
3. Read the label on the package, and check the product inspection information: Inspection of the meat by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or by the State of Vermont is mandatory, and an establishment’s inspection number must be provided on the label, along with the species, cut of meat, Net weight, ingredients statement, and safe handling instructions. If you are being asked to buy meat in bulk, lacking sufficient labeling, you cannot be sure the meat has been properly inspected as required.
4. Understand the cuts of meat you are buying: Know which cuts of meat you are buying and check the label for proper identification.
5. Always check to see that the products have been transported in a refrigerated vehicle: Never buy products that have been stored in the vehicle’s trunk, in an unrefrigerated vehicle, or in any kind of ordinary cooler or freezer that is unplugged. The product may be unsafe because bacteria and pathogens can multiply rapidly during times of elevated temperatures. Frozen food should be stored at 0°F and fresh foods should be stored at 40°F or below at all times to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage
6. Know the price per pound: In Vermont, meat retailers are required to sell meat by the pound; therefore, be informed of the price per pound of the product in question. If price per pound is not disclosed, do not purchase the product.
If you have used your EBT card (Electronic Benefits Transfer) to purchase meat products from an unlicensed door-to-door meat salesperson, please contact Ames Robb, the EBT Director with the Vermont Department for Children & Families. (802)769-6082 Ames.firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumers with doubts about the safety of meat they’ve purchased are encouraged to avoid any risk and refrain from consuming it. If you feel you are experiencing signs of illness, please see your doctor as soon as possible.
To report a concern regarding unlicensed door-to-door meat sales, please contact your local police department, or VAAFM’s Meat Inspection Department at 802-828-2426. Consumers are encouraged to note details which might assist identifying the questionable individual, such as physical description, vehicle description, and license plate number.