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FEBRUARY 25 , 2008 -- Number 7, Volume 8

SPECIAL EDITION: THE LARGEST EVER MEAT RECALL


1. 143,383,823 POUNDS

Nearly three weeks after the video of cows being abused at Hallmark Meat was made public (see: http://tinyurl.com/2kp6sa), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the company was voluntarily recalling 143,383,823 pounds of beef - the largest ever recall of meat. The amount comprises all beef produced by the company over the past two years. The USDA determined that, at times during that period, Hallmark failed to have cattle who became non-ambulatory after passing initial inspection reinspected (details at: http://tinyurl.com/yvz7gu), as is required. Non-ambulatory cattle are more suspect of having bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, “mad cow disease”), and meat from them is more likely to be contaminated with E. coli or Salmonella.

The recalled beef is to be destroyed (photos at: http://tinyurl.com/2u25gg), although it is believed that most of it has already been consumed (breakdown at: http://tinyurl.com/3ycp7n). There are no plans to test any of the recalled beef. The amount of potentially “adulterated” meat may actually exceed a billion pounds since the Hallmark beef may well have been mixed with other meat. Industry is urging the USDA to not expand the recall: http://tinyurl.com/2l7mh2.

 

2. HEALTH CONCERNS & TRADE TROUBLE

The USDA is stressing that the Class II recall signifies only a remote possibility that the meat would cause adverse health effects, and that no illness from it has been reported. (Note: The incubation period for the human form of BSE is up to 30 years.) Hallmark’s association with the National School Lunch Program (see: http://tinyurl.com/2kp6sa) prompted the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to “immediately bombard school boards with educational information reassuring them about the safety of beef.” Industry and the government are particularly concerned about the refusal of U.S. beef by some foreign markets (see: http://tinyurl.com/35r5o7 and http://tinyurl.com/3dv3rq) and they are attempting to assure them that the risk of BSE from U.S. meat is low.

 

3. THE ACCUSED

Police identified 11 instances of alleged illegal activity in the HSUS video. Two fired Hallmark employees (see: http://tinyurl.com/yoa5s7) have been charged. Daniel Navarro, the former pen manager, faces up to 8 years and 8 months in prison if convicted of 5 felony and 3 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. (It is reportedly the first time felony charges have been brought for cruelty to animals at a slaughterplant.) His former assistant, Luis Sanchez, faces up to 3 years in prison for 3 misdemeanor counts of using equipment to move animals.

Navarro told police that a former Hallmark owner instructed him to use the violent techniques to move cows. (The HSUS investigator reports having been told during his orientation to immediately euthanize non-ambulatory cattle.) Navarro seemed knowledgeable of humane regulations, and attempted to deflect blame to Sanchez. Sanchez admitted having known his actions were illegal but claimed to have been following orders. He is being held without bail due to his status as an illegal immigrant (see also: http://tinyurl.com/3csmu8). Additional charges could yet be lodged against other employees or the company officials. Details of the covert investigation can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2wd4go and http://tinyurl.com/2u25gg.

 

4. INSPECTION CRITICIZED

Initially, both industry and the USDA said the matter was an isolated incidence. HSUS expressed skepticism of that, claiming it had randomly picked Hallmark. The USDA subsequently announced it will be increasing observation of cattle in the 900 slaughterplants that handle them to determine if the abuse was an aberration. A 2006 audit by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General showed that the USDA’s “Food Safety Inspection Service is easy to bypass and was failing to screen potentially sick cattle long before this week's beef recall,” notes a Los Angeles Times article. "I think the real story is that the entire story is embarrassing to USDA and highlights an essential flaw in our inspection system,” said Craig Hedberg, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota. The same L.A. Times article details how a shortage of federal inspectors is enabling slaughterplant workers to evade oversight: http://tinyurl.com/3d7wpn "The failure of the inspection program to stop the company's egregious behavior is just another sign of how USDA's thousands of meat inspectors are locked into a rigid, antiquated form of inspection that is not filling the bill on either food safety or animal welfare," stated Mike Taylor, a former USDA food-safety official.

 

5. BLAME AND PREVIOUS ABUSE

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer accused HSUS of being partly responsible for the magnitude of the recall. "For four months they sat on that information," he said, referring to the video evidence. HSUS reiterated that it was local authorities who had requested a delay in releasing the information after having received the video on December 19th. Explaining why they had presented the evidence to local authorities, HSUS head Wayne Pacelle remarked "we have seen the USDA time and time again not take action."

Previously, the USDA was repeatedly informed of cows being abused at Hallmark. Two local humane organizations investigated 13 cases there between 1996 and 2004, 11 of which were substantiated. The USDA was notified by them, twice in writing and once verbally, in 1996 and 1997, of possible regulatory violations regarding Hallmark’s treatment of non-ambulatory cows. A letter, dated December 16, 1997, from one of the organizations, detailed conditions to which the then-owners of Hallmark had agreed. Included was that any non-ambulatory cow in distress was to be reported to the USDA vet or inspector for immediate euthanasia. Copied to the USDA, it concluded: "We all know that continued mishandling of downers is unethical and will only lead to further complaints from the public and possibly interference from the media."

 

6. CONGRESSIONAL ACTION

Congressional hearings have been scheduled to examine inspection failures and related matters. USDA Secretary Schafer is waiting for the results of the USDA’s investigation before recommending any policy changes. Legislators and others are calling into question the USDA’s dual role of promoting and regulating agriculture. One critic noted: “…a growing problem of sweetheart relationships between those regulators working in the government who then move into industry and those working in the industry who then move to government (http://tinyurl.com/2t228s). Calls are being renewed for a single government agency to take over food safety responsibilities. Meanwhile, the USDA is considering ways it might provide financial support for companies adversely affected by the recall.

 

7. "DOREEN THE DOWNER"

http://www.sfgate.com/comics/fiore






LARGEST BEEF RECALL IN HISTORY HAS INDUSTRY REELING
Meat & Poultry, Bryan Salvage, February 19, 2008
http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/headline_stories.asp?ArticleID=91391

SMALL RISK OF DANGER FROM BEEF RECALL
ABC News, Lauren Cox, February 19, 2008
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4307422&page=1

MEATPACKER IN COW-ABUSE SCANDAL MAY SHUT AS CONGRESS TURNS UP HEAT
The Wall Street Journal, David Kesmodel and Jane Zhang, February 25, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120378150987388423.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

ANIMAL-CRUELTY PROBE LEADS TO US'S BIGGEST MEAT RECALL
CIDRAP News (Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy), Robert Roos, February 18, 2008
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/other/bse/news/feb1808recall.html

CHINO MEAT PLANT DREW INLAND HUMANE SOCIETY SCRUTINY YEARS BEFORE VIDEO
The Press-Enterprise, Janet Zimmerman and Ben Goad, February 22, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/3co4fd

BEEF PRODUCTS RECALLED
The Mountain Enterprise, Patric Hedlund, February 22, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/2kghtj

MEATPACKER TO SHUT DOWN IN WAKE OF MASSIVE RECALL
The Wall Street Journal, David Kesmodel, February 23, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120378150987388423.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

HALLMARK RECALL A TOPIC OF CONVERSATION, WORRY IN SCHOOL CAFETERIAS
Meating Place, Tom Johnston, February 21, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=199457

USMEF MONITORING INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS TO HISTORIC BEEF RECALL
Meating Place, Tom Johnston, February 19, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=198706

LIVE FROM NMA: SCHAFER SAYS RECALL A FACTOR IN TRADE NEGOTIATIONS
Meating Place, Lisa M. Keefe, February 22, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/39vpt6

BEEF RECALL AFFECTS TRADE NEGOTIATIONS
Associated Press, Garance Burke, February 22, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/35r5o7

CRUELTY CHARGES FILED AGAINST SLAUGHTERHOUSE BOSS
The Los Angeles Times, Victoria Kim with Danielo Perdomo and Tami Abdollah, February 16, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/38yl5y

CHINO MEATPACKING WORKER ARRESTED IN RECALL CASE
ABC News, Jacob Adelman with Gillian Flaccus, February 19, 2008
http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=4312250&page=1

INVESTIGATORS RECORDS DETAIL TREATMENT OF COWS AT CHINO SLAUGHTERHOUSE
The Press-Enterprise, Douglas Quan and Julia Glick, February 22, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/2u25gg

BEEF INDUSTRY, ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS DUEL
Forbes, Ivan Moreno with Gillian Flaccus and Jacob Adelman, February 19, 2008
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2008/02/19/ap4668790.html

LIVE FROM USDA: AGENCY TO DETERMINE SOON IF HALLMARK WAS ISOLATED INCIDENT
Meating Place, Janie Gabbett, February 22, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=199838

CATTLE INSPECTIONS THWARTED
Los Angeles Times, Victoria Kim with Janet Wilson, February 20, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/3d7wpn

BEEF RECALL RAISES WORRY ON INDUSTRY OVERSIGHT
The Wall Street Journal; David Kesmodel, Lauren Etter and Jane Zhang; February 19, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120328489778174403.html

HUMANE SOCIETY BLASTED FOR LATE RELEASE OF VIDEO IN BEEF RECALL
CNN, Paul Courson, February 21, 2008
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/02/21/beef.recall.video/

RAMIFICATIONS OF ANIMAL ABUSE SPAN COUNTRY
Feedstuffs, Rod Smith, February 25, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/33gn7j

HUGE MEAT RECALL PRODS FURTHER REFORMS
The Christian Science Monitor, Brad Knickerbocker with Daniel B. Wood, February 20, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/2t228s

 

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Compiled and edited by Mary Finelli, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.