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Beef recall: A new chapter in an unappetizing saga

(article, Kim Carlson)

You may already have seen the headlines: '"Largest '"Huge '"U.S. 

Basically, 143 million pounds of beef is being recalled, meat that was processed over a two-year period by a California company, the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company. According the USDA, much of the recalled beef probably has already been eaten — some of that in school lunches. The recall specifies that the public-health danger is minimal, officials say. 

The recall was issued Sunday. Several weeks ago the USDA began investigating Westland/Hallmark after the Humane Society released a video showing sick cattle being forced to their feet at the processing plant, in an effort to have them approved for slaughter. (It is illegal to place the meat from downed cattle into the food system, unless the cattle are inspected by a USDA veterinarian first.) 

For details about the recall, the USDA has provided a question-and-answer page. Meanwhile on the blogs, Bonnie Powell at the Ethicurean addresses the recall, as does Barbara Fisher of Tigers and Strawberries, and Parke Wilde of U.S. Food Policy.

Of course, as much as one would like to think the Westland/Hallmark debacle is an isolated incident, it's hard to believe that's the case. What would happen if the Humane Society filmed operations at other industrialized meat-processing plants? As the Los Angeles Times_ reported,

bq.The Hallmark/Westland recall stems from an investigation that began in October 2007 by the Humane Society. An undercover investigator started working for Hallmark wearing a concealed camera to document the plant's handling of animals for six weeks. The group said it chose the plant at random.

How many other plants out there are also disregarding laws that protect people from contaminated food — and animals from inhumane practices?