USDA Might Limit Meat Recall Information
By ERICA WERNER – 16 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.
Currently, the government discloses only a recall itself. It does not list which retailers might have received recalled meat. The same holds true for recalled vegetables.
Consumer groups and Democratic lawmakers contend that the public should have access to the names of retailers in all meat recalls. As originally written, the rule would have applied to all meat recalls.
"It's unacceptable to us because of the way the rule was originally fashioned, and we have an immediate example of the Hallmark case being exempted," said Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.
At an appearance in Sacramento, Calif., earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer said there are "differences with the different classes of recalls."
"But, you know, a Class I recall, to have a retailer notification, I think, is important," Schafer said.
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."
Stories like Thacker's have led consumer groups to argue that customers need more information, a position shared by Dr. Richard Raymond, who made publishing the retailer rule a top priority when he took over as the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety in 2005.
In an interview this week Raymond said that it was "common sense to assume" that some consumers may have fallen ill because they didn't have access to names of retailers selling tainted meat. But he disputed the suggestion that industry opposition — expressed in written and public comments, meetings with the White House Office of Management and Budget, and other venues — has stalled the rule.
"It's going through the normal process," Raymond said. "It does unfortunately take a long time to go through the normal process."
Industry groups argue that even if just Class I recalls are covered, the rule could create confusion for consumers since retailer lists could be incomplete or take days or weeks to compile. Customers could have a false sense of security if their grocery store doesn't immediately show up on the list, the groups contend.
Some cite the example of California, which is unique among states in having a law requiring disclosure of retailers' names in recalls. California's list of retailers from the Westland/Hallmark recall is 147 pages long and has been continuously updated.
"We've met with USDA numerous times to be sure that they understand our goal, which is to be sure that if a consumer has bought a product that has been recalled we do not want them to eat that food," said Jill Hollingsworth of the Food Marketing Institute in Arlington, Va.
But some industry officials also acknowledge competitive concerns, because if lists of retailers selling recalled meat become public, competitors would know who to approach to offer the product at a lower price. "That does cause some issues in the marketplace," said Jeremy Russell, spokesman for the National Meat Association.
Associated Press writer Steve Lawrence in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.
Recalled beef from Chino slaughterhouse was used in 466 food products
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS HALLMARK/WESTLAND MEAT PACKING CO.
March 6, 2008
Q. My child/school recently consumed Hallmark/Westland products. What is the risk to children's health?
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance Program - Phase II
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Controls Over BSE Sampling, Specified Risk Materials, and Advanced Meat Recovery Products - Phase III
Report No. 50601-10-KC January 2006
Finding 2 Inherent Challenges in Identifying and Testing High-Risk Cattle Still Remain
Our prior report identified a number of inherent problems in identifying and testing high-risk cattle. We reported that the challenges in identifying the universe of high-risk cattle, as well as the need to design procedures to obtain an appropriate representation of samples, was critical to the success of the BSE surveillance program. The surveillance program was designed to target nonambulatory cattle, cattle showing signs of CNS disease (including cattle testing negative for rabies), cattle showing signs not inconsistent with BSE, and dead cattle. Although APHIS designed procedures to ensure FSIS condemned cattle were sampled and made a concerted effort for outreach to obtain targeted samples, industry practices not considered in the design of the surveillance program reduced assurance that targeted animals were tested for BSE.
Inherent Limitations in Identifying and Testing High-Risk Cattle APHIS obtained significantly more samples for testing than they originally anticipated would be needed to achieve its stated level of confidence in estimating the prevalence of BSE in the U.S. herd. Because of the voluntary nature of its program, however, we could not determine how successful APHIS was in obtaining a representative proportion of high-risk cattle for testing. Our prior report recognized the significant challenges for APHIS to obtain samples from the high-risk population because of the inherent problems with obtaining voluntary compliance and transporting carcasses for testing. APHIS took steps to obtain facilitated pathways, by entering into over 100 agreements, to collect and test brain samples for BSE. However, using USDA published data that estimates the distribution of the cattle population, as well as those that died or became nonambulatory, we could not determine whether APHIS achieved either geographical representation or representation of the desired surveillance stream (clinical suspects, fallen stock, casualty slaughter fallen stock, and routine slaughter). Findings 1 and 2 present the conditions noted that impact this evaluation. USDA Testing Protocols and Quality Assurance Procedures In November 2004, USDA announced that its rapid screening test produced an inconclusive BSE test result. A contract laboratory ran its rapid screening test on a brain sample collected for testing and produced three high positive reactive results. As required, the contract laboratory forwarded the inconclusive sample to APHIS’ National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) for confirmation. NVSL repeated the rapid screening test, which again produced three high positive reactive results. Following established protocol, NVSL ran its confirmatory test, an immunohistochemistry (IHC) test, which was interpreted as negative for BSE. Faced with conflicting results between the rapid screening and IHC tests, NVSL scientists recommended additional testing to resolve the discrepancy but APHIS headquarters officials concluded that no further testing was necessary since testing protocols were followed and the confirmatory test was negative. In our discussions with APHIS officials, they justified their decision to not do additional testing because the IHC test is internationally recognized as the “gold standard” of testing. Also, they believed that
conducting additional tests would undermine confidence in USDA’s testing protocols. OIG obtained evidence that indicated additional testing was prudent. We came to this conclusion because the rapid screening tests produced six high positive reactive results, the IHC tests conflicted, and various standard operating procedures were not followed. Also, our review of the relevant scientific literature, other countries’ protocols, and discussions with experts led us to conclude that additional confirmatory testing should be considered in the event of conflicting test results. To maintain objectivity and independence, we requested that USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) perform the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) Scrapie-Associated Fibrils (SAF) immunoblot test. The additional testing produced positive results. To confirm, the Secretary of Agriculture requested that an internationally recognized BSE laboratory in Weybridge, England (Weybridge) perform additional testing. Weybridge conducted various tests, including their own IHC tests and three Western blot tests. The tests confirmed that the cow was infected with BSE. The Secretary immediately directed USDA scientists to work with international experts to develop new protocols that include performing dual confirmatory tests in the event of an inconclusive BSE screening test. We attribute the failure to identify the BSE positive sample to rigid protocols, as well as the lack of adequate quality assurance controls over its testing program. Details of our concerns are discussed in Findings 3 and 4.
Controls (Firewalls) to Prevent BSE in the Food Supply USDA instituted proactive procedures to prevent tissues and products that could possibly contain the infective agent for BSE from entering the food supply. FSIS performs inspections on cattle before slaughter (ante mortem) to observe clinical signs that may indicate a central nervous system disorder or other signs that may be associated with BSE. Such animals are condemned and prohibited from slaughter for human consumption. FSIS also identified high-risk beef tissue and products as SRMs, and banned them from the food supply. FSIS inspects slaughter processes to verify that slaughterhouses have incorporated controls for handling SRMs into their operational plans; adequate procedures must be in place for removing, segregating, and disposing of SRMs. OIG reviewed the SRM plans of several establishments, observed FSIS inspection procedures, and evaluated the effectiveness of controls during the slaughter process. We did not identify SRMs entering the food supply. However, due to the lack of adequate records, we could not determine whether SRM procedures were followed and/or were adequate in 9 of
12 establishments visited during the audit. There is no requirement in the United States for the age of animals to be recorded, therefore, APHIS and FSIS rely on meat establishments to determine the age of cattle slaughtered using documentation or dentition. SRM restrictions apply predominantly to cattle 30 months of age or older. FSIS periodically checks the accuracy of age determinations through dentition; however, we could not determine how often these checks are made. We found that improvements can be made in the following areas. • FSIS approved an alternate ante mortem inspection procedure that limited the number of cattle subject to inspection. FSIS discontinued this procedure during the audit. • FSIS does not have an information system capable of readily identifying the scope of, and trends in, noncompliance violations relating to SRMs. • Most of the establishments reviewed did not have adequate SRM plans, and FSIS did not always identify these deficiencies. • Several of the establishments did not comply with their SRM plans and/or maintain records to support that they follow their plans. FSIS has addressed the specific cases of noncompliance identified during the audit. Findings
Downers and Cattle that Died on the Farm
Our prior audit recognized the significant challenge for APHIS to obtain samples from some high-risk populations because of the inherent problems with obtaining voluntary compliance and transporting the carcasses for testing. USDA issued rules to prohibit nonambulatory animals (downers) from entering the food supply at inspected slaughterhouses. OIG recommended, and the International Review Subcommittee33 emphasized, that USDA should take additional steps to assure that facilitated pathways exist for dead and nonambulatory cattle to allow for the collection of samples and proper disposal of carcasses. Between June 1, 2004, and May 31, 2005, the APHIS database documents 27,617 samples were collected showing a reason for submission of nonambulatory and 325,225 samples were collected with reason of submission showing “dead.”
We also disagree with APHIS/FSIS’ contention that because they have tested over 375,000 of their 446,000 estimate of high risk cattle, few in the high-risk population are being missed, including those that might be pre-screened before entering a slaughter facility’s property. In our prior audit, we reported that APHIS underestimated the high-risk population;
*** we found that this estimate should have been closer to 1 million animals (see Finding 1).
The policy stated in the preamble to 9 CFR 309.2(b)104 states that FSIS has excluded all nonambulatory disabled cattle from the human food supply, regardless of the reason for their nonambulatory status or the time at which they became nonambulatory (emphasis added). If an animal becomes nonambulatory in route to the establishment due to an acute injury, it must be humanely removed from the truck, humanely euthanized, and the carcass properly disposed of. Likewise, cattle that become nonambulatory on the establishment premises, such as an animal that breaks its leg as it is unloaded from the truck, are also required to be humanely moved, humanely euthanized, and the carcass disposed of properly. However, an FSIS notice105 states that if cattle are ambulatory at ante mortem inspection and become nonambulatory disabled prior to slaughter, the VMO should verify that the animal suffered an acute injury and allow the animal to proceed to slaughter and post mortem inspection. FSIS would expect such situations to be extremely rare because cattle, when handled and moved under proper humane handling conditions, should not be injured while being moved in pens. For cattle that become nonambulatory disabled after ante
mortem inspection, if the VMO cannot determine that a specific, acute injury occurred that caused the animal to become nonambulatory disabled, the animal is to be condemned and cannot enter the slaughter establishment. There appears to be inconsistent USDA policies related to slaughtering downers/nonambulatory cattle. Regarding animals for slaughter, it is clear that downers will not be slaughtered. In fact, one report106 states: “The U.S. Policy is to condemn all cattle that are nonambulatory or disabled when presented for slaughter." The Department has widely publicized that one of the firewalls put in place to prevent the spread of BSE is the prevention of downers from entering the food supply. Our review at the 12 plants visited showed the following variations in application of the policy for condemning or passing nonambulatory cattle for slaughter.
This was the only documentation of the condition of the cattle available at the plants. Plant inspection personnel believed that FSIS Notice 5-04 allowed the slaughter of nonambulatory cattle if the cattle had passed ante mortem inspection and then went down as the result of an acute injury. Therefore, they had allowed the plant to slaughter these cattle for human consumption. We observed use of a forklift and a rail above the pens to transport nonambulatory cattle to the slaughter area.
snip...see full text 130 pages ;
Science 23 November 2001: Vol. 294. no. 5547, pp. 1726 - 1728 DOI: 10.1126/science.1066838
Estimation of Epidemic Size and Incubation Time Based on Age Characteristics of vCJD in the United Kingdom
Alain-Jacques Valleron,1 Pierre-Yves Boelle,1 Robert Will,2 Jean-Yves Cesbron3
The distribution of the vCJD incubation period that best fits the data within the framework of our model has a mean of 16.7 years, with a standard deviation of 2.6 years. The 95% upper percentile of this distribution is 21.4 years. The 95% confidence interval (CI) of the estimates of the mean and standard deviation is relatively narrow: The 95% CI for the estimate of the mean incubation period is 12.4 to 23.2 years, and the 95% CI of the standard deviation is 0.9 to 8 years (10). The decrease in susceptibility to infection in exposed subjects older than 15 years, as estimated from the parameter , was found to be very sharp: 16% per year of age (CI: 12 to 23%). This means that, under the best fitting hypothesis, an individual aged 20 years in 1981 had 55% less risk of becoming infected than a child aged 15 years (99.9% for an individual aged 70).
SPECIFIED RISK MATERIALS
March 16, 2008
MAD COW DISEASE terminology UK c-BSE (typical), atypical BSE H or L, and or Italian L-BASE
SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM FROM DOWNER CATTLE UPDATE
DOWNER COW BLUES SENATORS WANT CRACKDOWN
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Release No. 0046.08 Statement by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer Regarding Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company Two Year Product Recall
Release No. 0046.08
USDA Press Office (202) 720-4623
Thursday, February 21, 2008
TRANSCRIPT: Technical Briefing - Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company - (02/21/08)
Release No. 0054.08
PLEASE SEE LONG LIST OF RESTAURANTS AND EATERIES IN CALIFORNIA THAT WERE FEEDING DOWNER CATTLE TO THE PUBLIC, WITH JACK-IN-THE-BOX BEING AT THE TOP OF THE LIST. 120 PAGES OF THEM. seems they would have learned the first time after all that potentially tainted beef from the mad cow cohorts from the Washington mad cow. ...
Hallmark / Westland Meat Recall - Retail Distribution
Beef - Westland/Hallmark Recall OF BEEF WITH DEADSTOCK DOWNER COWS, THE MOST HIGH RISK CATTLE FOR BSE/TSE AKA MAD COW DISEASE
Additional Products Listing 5-20-08
TOTAL DISTRIBUTION LIST
ADDITIONAL PRODUCTS CONTAINING RECALLED BEEF
SEE FULL LIST OF ALL RECALLED SUSPECT DEAD STOCK DOWNER COW PRODUCTS HERE ;
IF the USDA and the FDA et al were not in bed with the industry so much, they would come clean with the rest of the states, and produce a list for the public from each state as was done in California.
THAT'S just one state folks. nope, all the BSe about how No illnesses have been linked to the Class II recall that USDA prompted from BSE and or h-BASE or any other strain, is just that BS. the USDA knows PERFECTLY WELL that no one would get sick right off the bat from mad cow disease. Every parent out there should be demanding answers, not these same lies. THE USDA should follow every single child that consumed any of these products for the rest of there lives. there is no way out of it now. the product is gone, consumed, and these kids, the elderly, and most everybody in between have been exposed. non-ambulatory i.e. DOWNERS are the most likely to have a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy. WE know it's here, we know why the USDA et al shut down the testing, they did not want to document any more. ...TSS
[Docket No. 03-025IFA] FSIS Prohibition of the Use of Specified Risk Materials for Human Food and Requirement for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Cattle
i call for an investigation of the investigators
House committee subpoenas Hallmark/Westland CEO The subpoena orders him to testify at a March 12 hearing titled "Regulatory Failure: Must America Live With Unsafe Food?"
folks, that was in 2004. why, in 2008, why are we still discussing the same failures$$$
THE PEOPLE BELOW SHOULD ALL BE SUBPOENAED AS WELL FOR THEIR CONTINUED FAILURES TO PROTECT THE CONSUMER FROM MAD COW DISEASE. and i call for an investigation of the investigators below. why in 2008 are we still floundering$$$
Terry S. Singeltary Sr. P.O. Box 42 Bacliff, Texas USA 77518