Beef industry wants “loophole” removed, all downer cows banned from meat supply

April 23, 2008

The meat industry on Tuesday called upon the government to ban all downer cows from the national food supply, an about-face that comes in the wake of the record recall of 143 million pounds of beef from a Chino slaughterhouse.

Some California dairy farmers and cattle producers immediately embraced the move, which comes amid international concerns about the safety of U.S. meat and pressure from lawmakers and animal advocates, who pointed to the Chino meat scandal as evidence of an inadequate federal meat inspection system.

The American Meat Institute, which represents most of the nation’s meat producers, together with other meat and dairy industry groups, submitted a citizen petition to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Agriculture Department agency charged with ensuring meat safety.

The petition asks federal officials to remove a legal provision that allows some downer cows — those too sick or hurt to stand and walk — to be butchered for human consumption.

Most downers already are prohibited from entering the food supply because they are more likely to carry mad cow disease and other illnesses. Exceptions can be made if a cow goes down after an initial inspection but is able to pass a second veterinary inspection. That practice would stop if a ban is adopted.

In the case of Chino’s Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., federal officials found that inspectors were not summoned to re-examine cows that had gone down after the first inspection.


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