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Downer Cow Video Results in Biggest Beef Recall

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, February 18, 2008 12:44 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Defective Products, Product Liability

HumaneSociety video showing cruelty toward downer cowsleads to biggest beef recall.


143 million pounds of meat were recalled Sunday, the largest in history due to lapses in required inspections.

Westland/Hallmark Meat Company of Chino is the same company that was the subject of a Humane Society of the United States undercover video shot in October and November that showed abuse on sick “downer” cows being kicked, shocked and speared with a forklift before being slaughtered.

Downer cows are not supposed to go into the food supply because of the likelihood they are ill and the possibility they carry mad cow disease.

Because the company did not alert federal veterinarians, as it is required to do, the recall was launched.

“I am dismayed at the in-humane handling of cattle that has resulted in the violation of food safety regulations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company. It is extremely unlikely that these animals were at risk for BSE because of the multiple safeguards; however, this action is necessary because plant procedures violated USDA regulations,” says Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer in a statement. 

The Food Safety and Inspection System (FSIS) under the Department of Agricutlture oversees meat, egg and poultry safety.

The Department of Agriculture has to pressure meat plants to issue a recall by withdrawing inspectors from a plant. It does not have the authority to order a recall otherwise.    

The recall covers raw and frozen beef produced since February 1, 2006.  37 million of the 143 million pounds went to school lunch programs to be made into chili, tacos and hamburgers. 

The recall is a Class II meaning there is little chance of sickness. A Class I recall might involve E. coli for example and can cause extreme sickness or death.

Mad cow disease is still a remote possibility. There have been three infected cows reported in this country over the past few years. Mad cow causes CJD that eats away at brain tissue and is always fatal.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society says the recall means there needs to be more oversight at plants.

“The longer-term problem is the inadequacies of the inspection system. How can so many downers have been mistreated day after day within a U.S.D.A. oversight system that was present at the plant?

The men in the video are facing animal cruelty charges.

And even though all of the meat processed from the downer cows has likely been eaten, regulators say the recall is necessary because the plant was not following the rules for producing a healthy product.

The largest recall up to this point was in 1999 of 35 million pounds of beef.

The Department of Agriculture has 7,800 inspectors overseeing 6,200 plants. #




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