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  QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS HALLMARK/WESTLAND MEAT PACKING CO.
  Updated: March 6, 2008
 

Recall Information

Q. What is a recall?

A. Recalls are voluntary actions undertaken by manufacturers or distributors to remove from commerce products that are adulterated or misbranded from commerce.

Q. How did FSIS reach the decision to issue a recall?

A. As a result of USDA's ongoing investigation, FSIS obtained evidence that the establishment had the practice of occasionally slaughtering cattle that, although the cattle passed ante-mortem inspection, became non-ambulatory prior to entering the slaughter operation. This action is not compliant with FSIS regulations.

FSIS regulations require that plant personnel notify the FSIS public health veterinarian if an animal becomes non-ambulatory after being passed during ante-mortem inspection. The public health veterinarian then would be able to determine if the animal was unable to walk due to an acute injury, such as due to a broken leg, and would therefore be eligible to move on to slaughter.

Q. Does the recall mean that the investigation has concluded?

A. No. FSIS continues to assist USDA's Office of the Inspector General as they continue the investigation.

Q. How does the public know when a product has been recalled?

A. The public is notified through a recall release that is posted on the FSIS Web site and distributed to media in the affected area as well as through public health partners and stakeholders. FSIS might issue a public health alert if a product is not considered adulterated but there are illnesses involved or if illnesses are associated with a meat or poultry product from an unidentifiable source.

Q. What happens after the recall of Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company products?

A. FSIS will conduct effectiveness checks to ensure that customers have received notice of the recall and are making every effort to retrieve and destroy and control the recalled product.

FSIS personnel verify that the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company has been diligent and successful in notifying and advising its consignees of the need to retrieve and control recalled product, and that the consignees have responded accordingly.

Recall and the Federal Food and Nutrition Programs

Q. Relative to Federal food and nutrition programs, what products are covered by the recall?

A. All ground beef products produced by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company and delivered directly to Federal food and nutrition programs and further processed products that contain Westland products are covered by the recall. The direct delivered products include fine ground beef and one-pound chubs of ground beef. In most cases, coarse ground beef was delivered to firms that further process the product into end items. The recall applies to all Westland products delivered since February 1, 2006. State and local food program operators will need to work closely with their further processors to identify products derived from Westland coarse ground beef.

Q. How can the Westland products be identified?

A. Westland supplied fine and coarse ground beef directly to Federal food and nutrition programs. Its Federal establishment number (EST 336) will be on the shipping containers and immediate containers (i.e., chubs) of fine ground beef, as well as, a date of pack. For coarse ground beef that was further processed, the further processing firm will be able to provide information to identify and trace affected products.

Q. How does the recall impact the Federal food and nutrition programs?

A. When products subject to a recall have been distributed to Federal food and nutrition programs, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) participates in the recall process to enable them to rapidly notify their customers at the time a recall release is issued.

Some of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. branded products were purchased for Federal food and nutrition programs and, since Jan. 30, 2008, USDA has had an administrative hold on all products from Hallmark/ Westland Meat Co. in all of these outlets including, in the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Based on this Class II recall, officials of the Food and Nutrition Service and Agricultural Marketing Service are working closely with State food and nutrition officials to minimize any disruptions caused by the removal and disposal of recalled Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. products.

Q. What must be done with any Hallmark/Westland products or processed items containing Hallmark/Westland products in the Federal food and nutrition programs?

A. Any Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. products in the Federal food and nutrition programs, or its derivatives, must be destroyed and cannot be used or reconditioned for human consumption. All disposal methods must be fully documented regarding type of product and destruction method and witnessed with two signatures. Entities holding 50 cases or less may destroy the product on-site by rendering the product unfit for human consumption according to destruction guidance from the State or local health authority. Quantities greater than 50 cases must be taken to a landfill, incinerated, or sent for inedible rendering. FNS has provided sample destruction verification forms to all affected States.

Q. Who is responsible for ensuring that product in the Federal food and nutrition programs is properly disposed?

A. For quantities destroyed on-site, an appropriate person of authority (e.g. food service director) and one other person are required to witness the destruction using approved methods to render the product inedible. In the case of incineration or landfill destruction, two witnesses must be present: A representative of the landfill, incineration plant, or rendering plant AND a government official, i.e. a State/local health inspector, food service director, or someone of authority from the State Distributing Agency's office or their designee. If none of these officials is available the State Distributing Agency may coordinate with Federal officials (FSIS or AMS) to witness the destruction.

Q. If Westland product in the Federal food and nutrition programs was commingled with other supplier's products during further processing, will these products have to be destroyed?

A. Yes. All products that contain the recalled Westland product in the Federal food and nutrition programs must be destroyed.

Q. Will the recalled product in the Federal food and nutrition programs be replaced by USDA?

A. USDA is committed to replacing all donated commodities and fully reimbursing States for the costs incurred by local school districts for the disposal/destruction of all Westland and Westland associated product. USDA is currently gathering information on the manufacturing costs incurred by schools for the further processing of USDA purchased Westland beef so that an appropriate course of action can be determined.

Q. Can the recalled product in the Federal food and nutrition programs be further donated or used as pet food?

A. No. The Federal food and nutrition program product must be destroyed by placing it in a landfill, incinerating or by inedible rendering.

Q. Can further processors file claims directly with USDA for their costs associated with the recall and disposal of Westland product in the Federal food and nutrition programs?

A. No. Further processors must submit any such costs, in accordance with their existing contracts with States, to the State distributing agencies for payment. USDA will only reimburse States for costs associated with the recall and disposal of Westland products in the Federal food and nutrition programs.

Q. How soon can State and local program operators start disposing of recalled Westland products in the Federal food and nutrition programs?

A. The disposal may begin as soon as preparations can be made with a disposal site and State or local health officials for certification of destruction. It is important that local program operators work closely with their State distributing agencies to ensure proper documentation is submitted for reimbursement of expenses and replacement of product in the Federal food and nutrition programs.

Q. How soon will USDA start putting product in the distribution system to make up for shortfalls to State and local food and nutrition programs caused by the recall?

A. USDA has started the process to purchase replacement products for Federal food and nutrition programs that must destroy product that is currently in inventory. Additionally, on-going planned purchases will continue. FNS and AMS will work together to prioritize product deliveries to ensure State and local programs have ground beef items to meet their needs.

Q. What contractual actions will USDA pursue in this matter?

A. USDA has initiated a series of warranty actions against Westland to recover Federal food and nutrition program costs and costs associated with the recall. Additionally, USDA terminated all of its existing contracts with Westland, which freed up monies that were used to purchase beef products from eligible suppliers.