Massive Meat Recall Represents Terrible Failure of USDA Oversight

Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

February 17, 2008

The massive recall of beef from the Westland/Hallmark facility dwarfs all other meat recalls and follows more than 20 beef recalls in the last 12 months. Consumers are losing confidence in USDA’s ability to ensure the meat they eat is safe.

This recall is the result of a terrible failure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s mandate since 1906 to ensure that sick animals are not slaughtered for human food. Once again, USDA is in reactive mode—taking steps to protect the public long after a highly publicized animal welfare scandal.

Where were the inspectors, who should have been preventing downer cattle from entering the food supply? Where were the safeguards to make sure that meat from sick animals didn’t end up on school lunch trays from coast to coast? Congress should demand answers and enact solutions. If we had a modern food safety system, slaughterhouse employees wouldn’t dream of treating and transporting cattle in the horrible ways documented by the Humane Society—because they would know that federal inspectors on site wouldn’t tolerate it.


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