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USDA Orders 143 Million Pound Class II Beef Recall Following Release of Undercover Video

Monday, February 18, 2008

(American Meat Institute)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered a Class II recall of 143 million pounds of beef products produced since February 1, 2006, by Hallmark/Westland Meat Company.  The Department has been investigating the company since an animal rights group released video January 30 depicting inhumane treatment of livestock at the establishment. 

USDA officials stressed that the plant did not comply with inspection procedures, but that food safety was not at issue. 

In a statement, USDA said all cattle processed by the plant passed antemortem inspection.  However, when some cattle later became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, the plant should have summoned the inspector again, and it did not do so, according to the Department. 

In a statement, AMI underscored the fact that the meat was being recalled for non-compliance with inspection procedures, not food safety concerns.   “USDA’s message was clear: cattle inspection procedures were not followed and when they are not, product is considered ‘out of compliance’ and must be recalled,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp.
Dopp pointed out that all cattle processed by this plant passed the initial inspection to check their health, but that in some instances, when some cattle later became unable to walk, the USDA veterinarian should have been called again to reevaluate, but was not. Cattle can become non-ambulatory for a variety of reasons, including simple injury during movement. The fact that an animal becomes not ambulatory does not necessarily mean it is ill.

Dopp also pointed out that it was “important to note that the government has found no evidence that the meat was unsafe and has appropriately classified it as a ‘Class II recall,’ and not a ‘Class I recall,’ which is used when a there is a reasonable probability that a public health risk exists,” Dopp said.

Dopp condemned the handling practices depicted in an undercover video shot in the plant and released January 30 and said they stand in sharp contrast to typical animal handling practice in the meat industry.

USDA has also issued a set of questions and answers concerning the reasons for the recall, the impact on the federal food and nutrition systems, and addressing consumer concerns.    

To read the entire AMI statement, click here:  http://www.meatinstitute.org/Template.cfm?Section=Press_Statements&template=PressReleaseDisplay.cfm&PressReleaseID=3596

To read the USDA statement, click here:  http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2008/02/0046.xml

To read the USDA questions and answers, click here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2008/02/0048.xml

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