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Another Mega Meat Recall

February 15, 2010

Dammit, this better not become a monthly feature.  Last month I wrote about the recall of what seemed like an impossibly large amount of meat: 1,240,000 pounds.

What was remarkable about that story was that the recall was announced on Friday night, so the story made it into the paper on Saturday. You know, the day people stop caring about news.

Well, you will never believe what happened this past Friday.  Again.

Except this time the recall was a little bit bigger.  And when I say little bit, I mean it was four times the size of the one I wrote about in January. Specifically, 4,900,000 pounds of beef and veal were recalled.  Which incidentally is in addition to an earlier recall a few weeks ago at the same meatpacker of 864,000 pounds of beef.

All told that is 5,764,000 pounds of recalled meat.
All potentially contaminated with E. coli O157:H7

If you are in New York, you can breathe easy because all of the products were distributed in California.  If you are in California you can relax a little because most of the products have likely been consumed and no reported illnesses have been reported.

Bill Marler, attorney at law, posted a summary of the situation:

Huntington Meat Packing Inc., a Montebello, Calif., establishment, is expanding its recall of January 18 to include approximately 4.9 million additional pounds of beef and veal products that were not produced in accordance with the company’s food safety plan. The products are adulterated because the company made the products under insanitary conditions failing to take the steps it had determined were necessary to produce safe products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. FSIS has received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a physician.

To be clear, the USDA thinks the situation is very serious. It labeled this a Class I recall.  That means:
This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

For reference the definition of a Class II recall is as follows:
This is a health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product.

I have no interest in second-guessing the USDA on their findings.  But it feels as if the agency may just be overreacting a touch since the presence of E. coli O157:H7 is merely suspected in the vast ocean of recalled meat.

Regardless of what actually transpired, this recall shows how much of our food supply can be affected when one company does something wrong.

What makes this even worse is that this was veal.  The conditions of factory-farmed veal are legendary for their cruelty.  I will eat it on occasion, just like I’ll sometimes eat other mass produced proteins.  But to put an animal through that torment only to let its meat get contaminated is a horrible injustice.

At least there is an “ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General.”  So perhaps justice will be served in the end.

But I’m not going to hold my breath.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 15, 2010 10:11 am

    We need to know more. Has Huntington been cited before? Is the USDA over-reacting with the massiveness of the recall? Or is this like searching babies and the elderly at airports? While cleanliness in processing is essential, it is unreasonable to expect to feed over 300 million carnivores with nary a problem. On the other issue, no one wants to see animals abused, but there is such a thing as free-range veal and it is interesting to me that people get all upset about eating veal but will readily eat lamb, slaughtered even younger! We are swayed by emotions and propaganda.

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