Beef recall expands into nation’s largest food recall
February 27, 2008
The nation’s largest meat recall could grow into its largest food recall as companies destroy products with any amount of the 143 million pounds of beef recalled last week.
The recall’s scope is unprecedented, says the Grocery Manufacturers of America. The value of foods affected — including soups, sauces, burritos and bouillon cubes– could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a senior GMA official says.
“It’s going to be very, very sizable,” says Craig Henry, the group’s senior vice president. “We’ve never had a recall like this.” He says it will take weeks to find out how many products the recalled beef went into.
Westland/Hallmark Meat of Chino, Calif., recalled the beef on Feb. 17 after federal officials found it had allowed cattle that could not walk to be slaughtered without notifying a federal inspector to do a required second inspection. Those cattle are generally prohibited from the food supply because they carry a higher risk of mad cow disease and bacterial contamination.
The food industry ended the week in a flurry of conference calls as companies assessed the impact of the USDA’s latest instructions to recall products containing beef commingled with even tiny amounts of Westland beef. Earlier, the USDA had indicated that only products containing only Westland beef might be affected, Henry says.Much of the meat has likely been eaten, the USDA says. But canned products may be consumed years after they’re made.
The Westland recall will test the ability of companies to track ingredients. Beef used by a soup maker may pass through numerous companies that grind, season and blend it with other products, Henry says. The best way for consumers to find out if their products contain Westland beef is to call the producer, he says.
The USDA requires the beef products be incinerated, put in a landfill or cooked down to make meal not allowed in human or pet food, according to Westland.