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Huge Beef Recall Issued

  • About 143 million pounds are targeted, but the amount may be much greater due to processing methods
    By Victoria Kim and Mitchell Landsberg
    Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2008
    Straight to the Source

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the largest beef recall in its history Sunday, calling for the destruction of 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef produced by a Chino slaughterhouse that has been accused of inhumane practices.

However, the USDA said the vast majority of the meat involved in the recall -- including 37 million pounds that went mostly to schools -- probably has been eaten already. Officials emphasized that danger to consumers was minimal.

The recall applies to beef slaughtered at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. since Feb. 1, 2006. The company has produced no meat since Feb. 4 of this year, when operations were suspended.

The action came nearly three weeks after the Humane Society of the United States released a video showing workers at the plant using forklifts and water hoses, among other methods, to rouse cattle too weak to walk. In addition to issues of animal cruelty, the video raised questions about whether so-called downer cattle were entering the food chain in violation of federal regulations.

Although the Humane Society said at least four non-ambulatory cattle had been slaughtered for food, the USDA had repeatedly said it had no such evidence. On Sunday, federal officials said for the first time that they had evidence such cattle from Hallmark had been processed for food.

Downer cattle are not supposed to be used as meat unless a veterinarian determines that the animal stumbled or fell because of injury -- a broken leg, for instance -- that would not affect the safety of their meat. Cattle weakened by disease are not supposed to enter the food supply, although their risk of harming humans is still fairly low. There is, however, a slightly higher possibility that such cattle are suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease.

The USDA said there was only a remote possibility that the recalled beef from Hallmark could make people sick. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said it was "extremely unlikely" that any cattle processed at the plant were suffering from mad cow disease.

Steve Mendell, president of Hallmark Meat Packing and its distributor, Westland, declined to comment. The company has refused to answer questions about its practices since the Humane Society video surfaced. Mendell released a statement on Feb. 3 that said he was "shocked and horrified" by the video and that the company had a long history of meeting federal safety standards.

The recall was initiated voluntarily by the company, because the federal government does not have the authority to take such action.

Some supermarkets began removing Hallmark meat from their freezer shelves immediately after the USDA's announcement.

Managers at the Costco store in Burbank said they received an urgent e-mail about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, indicating that Westland had at one time been a supplier. It was unclear whether any current stocks had been provided by the plant.

"We're going to pull it just in case," said assistant warehouse manager Roland Prydz. He said the notice involved frozen beef.

Managers at Vons and Ralphs stores in Burbank and the Silverlake-Echo Park area said they did not recognize the company and doubted that it had supplied their stores.

Because Hallmark/Westland suspended operations in early February, it is unlikely that any of its fresh meat is still being sold. "That has a very [short] shelf life and refrigerator life, so the great majority has probably been consumed," Richard Raymond, the USDA's undersecretary for food safety, told reporters.

Hallmark/Westland meat was also sold to restaurant chains, including In-N-Out Burger and Jack in the Box, but both of those companies said they stopped using it early this month after the first reports of problems at the plant.

The amount of beef affected by the recall may be far larger than 143 million pounds because meat from different companies is often mixed as it goes through numerous processors. Such mixing makes it extremely difficult for consumers to know whether meat products came from a particular plant.

Full Story: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beef18feb18,0,4428760.story

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skip
post Feb 19 2008, 05:15 PM



re: USDA recall of 143 million pounds of beef processed by Hallmark Meat Packing Co.
Have scanned numerous news stories on this recall and the video obtained by the Humane Society that prompted the recall and have not seen the question asked or answered as to whether Hallmark Co voluntarily submitted any of the beef processed by the plant for BSE testing?
Does any body know?

ladycat
post Feb 20 2008, 04:11 AM


QUOTE (skip @ Feb 19 2008, 12:15 PM) *
have not seen the question asked or answered as to whether Hallmark Co voluntarily submitted any of the beef processed by the plant for BSE testing?

Knowing how the industry works, I seriously doubt they did.

FYI, here's a page with links that might answer some of your questions:

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_...008/02/0048.xml


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Willow
post Feb 20 2008, 02:28 PM


I am sickened to tears and disgusted by the mainstream processing of our United States food supply. I buy all my meat, Chicken, eggs and dairy from local family farms. I eat all organic food and belong to a CSA. I am happy to say I do not walk the grocery aisles very often. I find that eating this way is comparable in price to conventional shopping because we eat less "expensive " packaged junk food and we do not waste food.
I urge the Government to start protecting the American people instead of protecting the profits of large companies. There is MUCH to be learned and updated.
The fight to remain healthy and free is often against our regulatory agencies.
I can't believe that the workers were not doing what they were "expected" to do. When are we going to stop punishing people who are coerced into a system that does not work. I think the companies setting the policies and the agencies set up to regulate them should be accountable. This is a game that has a majority of loosers, we need to change the terms of engagement.

El Lechero
post Feb 20 2008, 11:20 PM


QUOTE (Willow @ Feb 20 2008, 09:28 AM) *
When are we going to stop punishing people who are coerced into a system that does not work. I think the companies setting the policies and the agencies set up to regulate them should be accountable. This is a game that has a majority of loosers, we need to change the terms of engagement.


In our conventional food production system, "we," are the ones being coerced, either through propaganda (advertising), ignorance, inaction, or through the laws that limit our food choices to what Big Brother says is Okay. Food regulations diminish (food) freedoms. When I can't have a milk cow in my 5-acre backyard because it's not zoned for agricultural use, I have lost freedom. When I can't sell a quart of fresh Jersey cream to my neighbor who wants to whip it for a pumpkin pie, but can't because it's raw (not funneled through the corporate government-enforced centralized processing center and changed completely from its original state), she is losing her freedom to choose the food she wants and I'm losing the freedom of self-determination. The "terms of engagement" are that the whole system runs on where the dollars flow and where the buck stops. We can try to get agencies and bureaucrats to fix our problems or we can just fix them ourselves. Aside from making better food choices, this still involves going after the agencies and bureaucrats--we just have to demand that they allow us to do their jobs for them, which they don't want to hear, and which most people aren't willing to do, thus the current system of coercion.