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February 18, 2008
Largest Meat Recall in History
The US Department of Agriculture has issued the largest recall of meat in its history; 143 million pounds.
The reason? Hallmark Meat Packing in Chino, California's allowed sick and diseased animals to enter the food supply:
The recall comes less than three weeks after the release of a videotape showing what the USDA later called "egregious violations" of federal animal care regulations by employees of a Westland partner, Hallmark Meat Packing in Chino. Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be much danger to the public as a result of the laxity by Hallmark. But the recall underscores the changing nature of our meat consumption. Americans today consume less fresh meat and much more processed meat. It becomes extremely important for USDA inspectors to do their jobs since some of this meat will be in the food chain for nearly a year.
Hallmark did not consistently bring in federal veterinarians to examine cattle headed for slaughter that were too sick or weak to stand on their own, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said. "Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection, [the USDA] has determined them to be unfit for human food, and the company is conducting a recall," he said in a statement.
About 37 million pounds of the meat -- cuts, ground beef and prepared products such as meatballs and burrito filling -- went to school lunch and other public nutrition programs, and "almost all of this product is likely to have been consumed," said Ron Vogel, a USDA administrator.
Some larger purchasers, though, may keep meat for as long as a year. Company and government officials will try to trace the meat to notify the purchasers not to use it.
In the past, bad meat would work its way through the system in a matter of weeks given that the overwhelming percentage of our meat intake was through grocery or butcher purchases. But techniques have been developed in the last decades which keeps beef from spoiling for a much longer period of time. And that makes it harder to track and recall once the processed products get into circulation.