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Food & Health : Laws & Politics Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


USDA suspends meat operations at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co.
By David Liu, Ph.D.
Feb 6, 2008 - 12:53:54 PM

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WEDNESDAY FEB 6, 2008 (Foodconsumer.org) -- The U.S. government issued a statement on Feb 5 saying that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Feb 4 suspected inspection at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company "based on the establishment's clear violation of Federal regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act."

The FSIS action came one week after the Humane Society of the United States on Jan. 30 released a video tape showing that workers at Hallmark Meat Packing Co., of Chino, California were using sticks, electric prods and water hoses to force downers to stand on their feet to pass USDA inspection.

Downers, cows that are too old or too sick to stand on their own feet, are likely to harbor health risks such as mad cow disease and pathogens. The USDA has regulations that prohibit downers from being processed into meat for human use.

Meat from sick and abused cows may have entered food chain, claimed the Humane Society, which says that video shows at least four downers were slaughtered and processed, but the FSIS said there is no evidence showing sick cows entered any food chain.

The meat processed by Hallmark's Chino, California slaughter plant was shipped to the Westland Meat Co., which processes the carcasses. According to the humane society, this facility is the second largest supplier of beef to USDA's commodity Procurement Branch, which distributes the beef to needy families, the elderly and also schools through the National School Lunch Program.

Westland's business covers more than 100,000 schools and child care facilities in 36 states under this national lunch program. The news that sick cows were abused and processed into beef for school programs has triggered state and local school districts to stop using beef from Westland.

The Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company voluntarily stopped operations on Feb. 1 after the releasing of the video. The FSIS suspension will remain in effect and the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company will not be allowed to operate until written corrective actions are submitted and verified by FSIS to ensure that animals are humanely handled, the USDA agency said.

In an effort apparently to comfort consumers, the FSIS stressed in its statement that on Jan 30, SUDA placed an administrative hold on all Westland Meat Packing Company products because of potential violations of regulatory requirements and contractual terms as a supplier of products to the Federal food and nutrition programs.

The US food safety agency also said "USDA at the time of the hold also indefinitely suspended the eligibility of Westland Meat Packing Company to participate as a supplier to Federal food and nutrition programs, specifically the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations."

The US government did not say in its statement whether or not the companies of concern would receive any penalties except for the current suspension, which will be released after the companies correct the inhumane treatments of downers and processing of unqualified cows into meat products.





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