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Statement by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer Regarding Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company Two Year Product Recall
February 17, 2008
"Today, USDA is announcing additional actions as a result of the ongoing investigation at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has evidence that Hallmark/Westland did not consistently contact the FSIS public health veterinarian in situations in which cattle became non-ambulatory after passing ante-mortem inspection, which is not compliant with FSIS regulations. Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection FSIS has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall.
The United States enjoys one of the safest food supplies in the world. To help ensure the safety of the food supply, we implement a series of safeguards to protect against foodborne disease. These safeguards include in-plant procedures to reduce dangerous foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. It also includes the removal of specified risk materials-those tissues demonstrated to contain the bovine spongiform encephalopathy agent in infected cattle-from the human food chain, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 1997 ruminant to ruminant feed ban. The prohibition of non-ambulatory cattle from the food supply is an additional safeguard against bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Upon notification of possible violations of USDA regulations, we immediately began an investigation and placed products from this plant destined for the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations on hold. Since then, we also suspended all Federal food and nutrition program contracts with Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company. To date, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company remains suspended by the Food Safety and Inspection Service. The products destined for the Federal food assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program, will now be removed from schools and other holding facilities and destroyed.
I am dismayed at the in-humane handling of cattle that has resulted in the violation of food safety regulations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company. It is extremely unlikely that these animals were at risk for BSE because of the multiple safeguards; however, this action is necessary because plant procedures violated USDA regulations.
In addition, our Office of the Inspector General and the Food Safety and Inspection Service continue the investigation. We will respond immediately if further findings warrant. Details about this recall and USDA actions are available at www.usda.gov/actions . "