Beef Recall FAQ
What You Need to Know About the Biggest U.S. Beef Recall
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 18, 2008 -- Americans already have eaten most of the 143.4 million
pounds of beef involved in this week's biggest-ever U.S. meat recall.
Yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture says consumers are at little risk --
even if they did eat the meat.
It's a confusing issue. Here's WebMD's guide to what's going on.
Exactly what meat products were involved? Are they still in stores?
Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. of Chico, Calif., slaughters cattle
and uses them to produce raw and frozen beef products ranging from hamburger
meat to beef bile. The recalled beef includes all products made by this company
over the two-year period from Feb. 1, 2006, to Feb. 2, 2008, when the USDA
suspended plant operations.
During those two years, Hallmark/Westland produced 143,383,823 pounds of
beef products. All of it has been recalled.
Since October 2006, 37 million pounds of this beef went to federal school
lunch programs and other domestic assistance programs such as the Emergency
Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian
It is not yet clear where the rest of the beef was sold. However, USDA
officials believe most of the beef already has been consumed, as most of it is
a raw beef product with a very brief shelf life.
Exact product descriptions can be viewed in a document at the USDA web
site. All Westland products carry the company's federal establishment
number -- EST 336 -- as well as the packing date.
Why does the USDA say the risk is low?
The risk is low because no contaminated or infected beef has been found and
because no human illnesses have been linked to the recalled beef.
Why was the beef recalled?
According to the USDA, Hallmark/Westland voluntarily recalled the products
because of allegations that the company failed to properly inspect cattle prior
A video released by the Humane Society of the United States vividly
documents inhumane treatment of cattle at the Hallmark/Westland facility. It
showed cows that were unable to walk being repeatedly shocked, sprayed in the
nose with high-pressure hoses, and shoved with forklifts in order to make them
Since July 2007, U.S. food regulations say cattle unable to stand on their
own ("downer" cattle) may not be used as food unless they are inspected
and found to be healthy except for acute injuries, such as a broken leg, that
make them unable to walk.
These regulations were put in place to ensure that animals infected with
bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- BSE or mad cow
disease -- did not enter the food supply.
The USDA says there's evidence that Hallmark/Westland has been violating
this rule since Feb. 1, 2006. In a statement posted on the Westland web site,
Steve Mendell, president of Westland Meat Co., says his company has conducted
all required inspections and has taken "swift action" regarding two
employees shown in the Humane Society video (local authorities have charged the
two employees with felony animal cruelty).