meat inspectionLibby Quaid of the Associated Press reports that the government allowed state-inspected meat plants to operate despite finding soot-like material on pig carcasses and old meat residues on cutting boards, according to a report made public Thursday.

The findings come amid efforts in Congress to let state-inspected plants sell meat anywhere in the United States. Only federally inspected plants can ship meat across state lines or to foreign countries.

A consumer group said Congress should drop the effort and warned people to beware of state-inspected meat. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said state plants meet or exceed federal rules.

The audit by the Agriculture Department’s inspector general faulted the department, which oversees state inspection programs, for weaknesses in the review process. Auditors described violations at Mississippi plants in 2003, including "soot-like material found on several swine carcasses in cooler" and "cutting boards (deeply scored and stained) contained product residues from previous days’ operations."