Last Sunday’s recall of 143 million pounds of beef by the U.S. Department of Agriculture should provide a loud and clear wakeup call that federal inspection is not adequate to ensure a safe meat supply (News, “Welcome to Indiana,” Feb. 6-13).
This largest meat recall in U.S. history was actually brought on by an animal rights organization’s undercover video showing California slaughterhouse workers using kicks, electric shock, high-pressure water hoses and a forklift to force sick or injured animals onto the kill floor. USDA regulations prohibit sick animals from entering the food supply, because of the high risk of contamination by E. coli, Salmonella or Mad Cow disease.
About 37 million pounds of the recalled meat went to school lunch and other federal nutrition programs since October 2006, and “almost all of it is likely to have been consumed,” according to a USDA official.
Parents must insist that USDA stop using the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for surplus meat and dairy commodities. The rest of us must learn to treat all meat, and particularly ground beef, as a hazardous substance to be consumed at one’s own peril.