A California slaughterhouse has issued the largest beef recall on record following an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States.
Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, Calif., recalled over 143 million pounds of beef on Feb. 17, much of which was destined for school lunch programs, homeless shelters, and the elderly. The company is recalling all its raw and frozen beef products produced since Feb. 1, 2006.
Despite the national uproar, Geneseo seems relatively unaffected by this meat crisis.
Though much of the tainted beef was slated for school lunch programs, Virginia Geer-Mentry of Campus Auxiliary Services assured students that there is no need for worry.
"We receive our beef from Iowa Beef Products," she said. "CAS has double-checked with all of our suppliers, we do not have that beef."
Though the USDA claims to have intercepted much of the beef, at least some of the meat sent to schools was infected with E.coli. Unfortunately, most of the tainted beef has already been consumed. The recall is classified as a Class II recall, suggesting that there is little risk of health hazards.
Humane Society investigators distributed their undercover film, which prompted the recall, on Jan. 30. The film showed cows being kicked, shocked in the eyes with cattle prods, being rammed with the blades of a forklift and having water sprayed down their throats in order to move them along for slaughter.
USDA regulations state that downer cattle - animals that cannot walk due to illness or injury - are forbidden from entering the human food chain. Downer cows are banned from the food supply because such animals may be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow disease."
The video, which has been broadcast by major news outlets and YouTube.com, has citizens demanding government intervention in the meat-packing industry.
"The USDA needs to increase enforcement. I saw the video and I'm going to take some time off from McDonald's," said senior Dan Davenport.
When asked what steps needed to be taken to avoid the beef in question, Jo Natale with Wegmans consumer affairs offered a similar response: "We did not purchase any product from Westland. No action was necessary."
Geneseo Wal-Mart management declined to comment.
Anthony Magidow, General Manager of Westland/Hallmark, told the Wall Street Journal that a refund of the tainted beef would be impossible.
"If the USDA wants payment back, we're dead meat," he said. "We're done. There's no way we could pay it all back."
It appears unlikely that the slaughterhouse will ever re-open.
The last beef recall was in 1999 by Thorn Apple Valley. That incident involved 35 million pounds of ground beef: four times smaller than last week's recall. The Humane Society's undercover film, which sparked the controversy, can be viewed at http://www.hsus.org/farm/multimedia.