A: That is one possible loophole. The Agriculture Department won't say if it has additional checks on packaged or processed imports — European foods sold at specialty stores, for example. It is probably impossible for the government to test all those things at the border.
Q: Are large retailers conducting tests to make sure that horse meat hasn't made its way into their products?
A: Unclear. Most U.S. retailers don't have a lot of interest in wading into the European horse meat scandal. The Associated Press contacted Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and other food industry representatives this week to ask what they are doing to ensure their products don't have horse meat. None of the companies responded. Steven Guterman, chief executive officer of InstantLabs, a company that makes DNA tests that could detect horse meat, says his company has received orders for the tests from Europe but not from the United States since the scandal broke.
Q: So how can I be sure there's no horse meat in the product these large food companies are selling?
A: According to George Dunaif of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's largest food companies, the industry takes a lot of steps to ensure the integrity of products. Suppliers must provide certificates showing that the products they are selling are labeled correctly and companies can demand certain standards. It's also illegal to sell misbranded food, and most brands depend on consumer trust for survival. A scandal like the one in Europe can ruin companies.
Q: What about fast-food restaurants that sell huge volumes of beef?
A: Burger King says it has conducted unannounced audits of all of its suppliers globally, including in the United States, to ensure their meat is 100 percent beef. The company says most of its U.S. restaurants use domestic suppliers but some of the meat is from Australia and New Zealand, and that meat has been DNA tested for horse meat. McDonald's said in a statement that the company "only works with a select group of approved beef suppliers that adhere to our stringent standards."
Q: Should I be worried?
A: No. There just isn't enough horse meat in the U.S. for it to make sense for meatpackers to illegally mix it in, and U.S. meat inspections in plants and checks at the border would most likely catch any large-scale scams.
Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mcjalonick