Massive Beef Recall. On Sunday, February 17th, 2008, the USDA issued a recall of 135 million pounds of beef from a California meatpacking company. This recall is the largest recall of beef in US history and covers meat produced as far back as Feb of 2006. Understandably, the public has been very concerned.
The affected meat was processed at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company in Chino, California. The recall follows on the heels of controversial video secretly filmed at the company by the HSUS. The video shows workers using less than humane methods to try and prod “downer” cattle to their feet. Per USDA standards, no animals that are unable to stand or walk prior to a pre-slaughter inspection will enter the food chain. Most animals who are “down” are so because of bone, neurologic, or metabolic reasons. These reasons do not put the food supply at risk, but these animals are still excluded from the food supply out of an abundance of caution. UDSA officials are calling the recall a “Class II Recall” meaning that the risk to public health is minimal and, to date, there have been no known reports of any illnesses that are associated with consumption of the beef. Beef processed by Hallmark has not been available to consumers through retail grocery stores or meat markets. Much of the meat sold by Hallmark was sent to wholesalers using the beef for filling in products such as burritos and for meatballs and sausage.
More than 37 million pounds of the beef was sold to national school lunch program and other nutrition programs maintained by the USDA. The company has been removed from the school lunch program. The Hallmark/Westland Company has been closed pending a USDA investigation of the facilities. In a press release dated Feb 17th, 2008, the Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer stated that Hallmark/Westland was not compliant with USDA regulations requiring contact with a Food Safety and Inspection Services veterinarian in the event of cattle becoming non-ambulatory after passing inspection. The first of two issues is the fact that people are concerned about the safety of the food supply. Due to the numerous safeguards in our system, it appears that people’s safety is not at risk. In recent years, more than 800,000 animals have been tested and two cows have tested positive for BSE. These animals were born prior to a ban on using contaminated feedstuffs. The second issue is the treatment of the animals destined for slaughter. The HSUS video is certainly horrific and steps should be taken to insure adequate welfare for these animals.
Certainly this author questions what type of beef, as well as its purity and freedom from disease is used for pet foods. Pet owners have every right to question the safety of the commercially available brands of beef pet food currently available.