Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bush's Agriculture Department ready to give meat packers a pass

WASHINGTON - Under pressure from the food industry, the Agriculture Department is considering a proposal not to identify retailers where tainted meat went for sale except in cases of serious health risk, The Associated Press has learned.

Had that been the rule in place last month, consumers would not have been told if their supermarkets sold meat from a Southern California slaughterhouse that triggered the biggest beef recall in U.S. history.

The plan is being considered as the USDA puts the final touches on a proposed disclosure rule. It had lingered in draft form for two years until getting pushed to the forefront in February, when 143 million pounds of beef were recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., after undercover video by an animal-rights activist showed workers abusing crippled cows.

Agriculture Department spokesman Chris Connelly confirmed Wednesday that the agency is weighing whether to make naming the stores mandatory only for so-called "Class I" recalls, which pose the greatest health hazard. The Chino recall was categorized as "Class II" because authorities determined there was minimal risk to human health.

~ SNIP ~

Partly for competitive reasons, industry groups support the way recalls are currently done, where a description of the recalled product is released by the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service along with some other information including where it was produced.

Retailers must remove recalled meat from their shelves but there's no requirement that they notify their customers about meat already sold, though some take voluntary steps to do so.

Consumers may be able to identify prepackaged foods like hot dogs that the Agriculture Department mentions by brand name, but with ground beef or other items that are repackaged at grocery stores, there's usually no identifying information on the package to tell consumers it's a recalled item.

Kristi Thacker, a registered nurse in the small town of Eldon in central Missouri, said she had no idea the frozen ground beef in her freezer, purchased at her local grocery store, was tainted until her 5-year-old daughter became sick from E. coli. This was during a recall in 2002 and her daughter, Savana, has now recovered.

"My child would not have gotten sick if they would have told me that I had bad hamburger. I would have thrown it away," Thacker said in an interview Wednesday. "Instead, a month later, with bad hamburger sitting in my freezer the whole time, she became deathly ill."

I'm already hearing lots of people saying not to give the fed govt any money because they waste it and don't do shit while people are dying...

Read the whole thing here.


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