Beef Recall - Biggest beef recall in U.S. history, 140 million pounds.
School districts are scrambling to see if they've received any of the frozen meat involved in the biggest beef recall in U.S. history, 140 million pounds.
One local industry veteran says he just can't figure out how in 2008 this could have happened.
”The things they were saying, using a forklift to move an animal, you can’t do that,” said John Tarpoff, Vice President of Meat at Niman Ranch in Marin.
Government regulations have become stricter over the years. Ranchers are not allowed to slaughter an animal for human food if it can't walk on its own because they might be more prone to disease. In addition, government food safety and inspectors are required on the scene in slaughterhouses every day.
”You can’t do anything in the plant without the S.S.I.S. people looking in,” said Tarpoff, who says he would like to think this is an isolated incident, and Congress doesn’t need to get involved.
The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that
came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency
Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said his department has evidence
that Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle
became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, violating health
``Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection,
Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined them to be unfit for
human food and the company is conducting a recall,'' Schafer said in a
A phone message left for Westland president Steve Mendell was not immediately returned.
Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an
undercover Humane Society video surfaced showing crippled and sick
animals being shoved with forklifts.
Two former employees were charged Friday. Five felony counts of
animal cruelty and three misdemeanors were filed against a pen manager.
Three misdemeanor counts - illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal
- were filed against an employee who worked under that manager. Both
Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and
otherwise abusing ``downer'' animals that were apparently too sick or
injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Some animals had water forced
down their throats, San Bernardino County prosecutor Michael Ramos said.
No charges have been filed against Westland, but an investigation by federal authorities continues.
Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef
went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has
already been eaten.
``We don't know how much product is out there right now. We don't
think there is a health hazard, but we do have to take this action,''
said Dr. Dick Raymond, USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety.
Most of the beef was sent to distribution centers in bulk packages.
The USDA said it will work with distributors to determine how much meat
Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food
supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E.
coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in
feces and their immune systems are often weak.
About 150 school districts around the nation have stopped using
ground beef from Hallmark Meat Packing Co., which is associated with
Westland. Two fast-food chains, Jack-In-the-Box and In-N-Out, said they
would not use beef from Westland/Hallmark.
Jack in the Box, a San Diego-based company with restaurants in 18
states, told its meat suppliers not to use Hallmark until further
notice, but it was unclear whether it had used any Hallmark meat.
In-N-Out, an Irvine-based chain, also halted use of the
Westland/Hallmark beef. Other chains such as McDonald's and Burger King
said they do not buy beef from Westland.
Raymond countered a claim leveled by Humane Society President and
CEO Wayne Pacelle, who said a USDA inspector was at the Westland plant
for about two hours each day. USDA inspectors are there at
slaughterhouses ``continuously,'' Raymond said.
Federal lawmakers on Thursday had called for the Government
Accountability Office to investigate the safety of meat in the National
School Lunch Program.
Upon learning about the recall, some legislators criticized the
USDA, saying the federal agency should conduct more thorough
inspections to ensure tainted beef doesn't get to the public.
``Today marks the largest beef recall in U.S. history, and it
involves the national school lunch program and other federal food and
nutrition programs,'' said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and
Forestry. ``This begs the question: how much longer will we continue to
test our luck with weak enforcement of federal food safety
Advocacy groups also weighed in, noting the problems at Westland
wouldn't have been revealed had it not been for animal right activists.
``On the one hand, I'm glad that the recall is taking place. On the
other, it's somewhat disturbing, given that obviously much of this food
has already been eaten,'' said Jean Halloran, director of food policy
initiatives at Consumers Union. ``It's really closing the barn door
after the cows left.''
The Vallejo Unified School District will destroy 20 cases of frozen
beef received from a Chino-based meat company that issued a Class II
nationwide recall Sunday, school district spokesman Jason Hodge said
The school had about 100 cases of frozen beef on hand when an
administrative hold on Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. beef was issued by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 30. All beef was pulled from
Vallejo school menus until officials could verify how many of the
containers were received specifically from Westland, district spokesman
Jason Hodge said.
The USDA notified the district last week that it is in possession of 20 cases of beef from Westland, Hodge said.
Vallejo school district officials announced Monday morning the
district will destroy its 20 cases received from Westland under
direction from the USDA. No illnesses have been reported in the Vallejo
School District in relation to the Westland beef products, according to
The district's remaining cases of beef that were unconnected to the
Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. were approved for use on school menus, Hodge
said. The school district will continue to receive new cases of meat
from other companies, Hodge said.