Meat packer recalls 143 million pounds of beef, suspended from Federal programs

The Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company of Chino, CA is voluntarily recalling 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef products packaged since February 1, 2006. This announcement comes on the heels of an ongoing FSIS investigation of non-compliance with Federal regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. A video, released by the US Humane Society, showed “downer” cattle being prepared for slaughter and was aired on national TV and the Internet.

According to Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond, the recall is designated Class II (unlikely to affect human health). With operations suspended by FSIS, the company must have an approved corrective action plan before it can resume operations.  The supplier has also been indefinitely suspended in participating in all Federal food and nutrition programs.

Industry pans FDA budget

Food processors and marketers are finding little to cheer about in President Bush’s FY2009 budget for the Food and Drug Administration, the agency with the most responsibility for inspecting the US food supply.

“The President’s proposal to increase FDA food-related spending by $32 million does little more than cover the cost of inflation and falls short of what is ultimately needed to make certain FDA has the tools it needs to get the job done,” says Cal Dooley, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.  “However, we are confident that Congress will provide the necessary resources to rebuild FDA’s scientific capacity.”

In December, Dooley was part of an alliance of food producers and consumer groups that pushed for significant increases in the FDA’s inspection and enforcement activities.

Opposition to Farm Bill provision

Several food industry associations and companies are attempting to head off consideration of a sugar-trade proposal by congressional Farm Bill conferees. The groups contend that, in addition to further inflating US sugar prices, the proposal to restrict Mexican sugar exports to the United States could cause other commodity groups in Mexico to ask for similar protection from US exports.

Representatives from The Coca-Cola Company, The Hershey Company, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, Pepsi and Mars, as well as a number of food industry associations, took their concerns to top White House officials. The food and beverage industries have been contending with sharply higher commodities prices over the last 12 months.