The USDA ordered a meat recall after an investigation revealed a disturbing story about the inhumane methods by which one of our nation’s slaughterhouses treats its animals. According to an Associated Press report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a California slaughterhouse which is the subject of an animal abuse investigation. Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer, said that his department has evidence that the Chino based Westland/ Hallmark Meat Co. did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became unable to walk after passing inspection, violating health regulations.
Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/ Hallmark after an undercover Humane Society video surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts. Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing “downer” animals that apparently were too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Some animals had water forced down their throats, San Bernardino county prosecutor Michael Ramos said. Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they might pose a higher risk of foodborne illness and contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems often are weak.
Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready to eat meats. No illnesses have been linked to the newly recalled meat, and officials said the health threat probably was small.
“We don’t think there is a health hazard, but we do have to take this action,” said Dr. Dick Raymond, USDA undersecretary of food safety.
Food poisoning is almost always preventable, although consumers often do not see the conditions that cause their food to become contaminated. Restaurants, grocery stores, farmers and food manufacturers all have a legal duty to make sure their products are safe to eat. When they fail in that duty, innocent people are sickened through no fault of their own.