Beef recall expanded nationwide; politicians seek more information

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Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

The Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for inspecting poultry, meat and eggs in the United States. About 9 million pounds of beef processed at a California plant were recalled because it did not benefit from an FSIS inspection.

A five-state, high-risk beef recall has now been expanded to include the rest of the country.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for inspecting poultry, meat and eggs in the United States. About 9 million pounds of beef processed at a California plant were recalled because it did not benefit from an FSIS inspection.

Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

The Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for inspecting poultry, meat and eggs in the United States. About 9 million pounds of beef processed at a California plant were recalled because it did not benefit from an FSIS inspection.

Earlier this month, a California-based meat plant had to recall nearly 9 million pounds of beef processed from “diseased and unsound animals” that did not receive proper inspection.

At first, officials from the Food Safety and Inspection Service reported that Rancho Feeding Corporation only sold that unsafe meat to distribution centers and retail stores in California, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Those same officials are now reporting that the entire country may be at risk.

“When the recall was first issued on Feb. 8, FSIS was unable to ascertain the extent of the establishments involved,” stated a recent news release on the recall. “As the establishments were notified, the list of states affected grew. FSIS now believes that recalled product was shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments nationwide.”

And while safety officials announced the expanded scope of the recall, some critics argue that they have scarcely provided any other information about the recall.

For instance, in most cases, the Food Safety and Inspection Service provides extensive detail on how the problem was discovered. So far, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agency has not done so. Likewise, some pasture-fed cattle that were deemed sound and disease-free are also under recall because they were processed at the Petaluma, Calif., plant, and the ranchers who raised those cattle do not understand why.

Because of the lack of information, some policy makers have expressed their frustration with the food-safety agency responsible for monitoring meat, poultry and eggs.

“What I’m troubled by most right now is the inability to get good information on what is happening,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) in a statement.

Distribution records show that nearly 2,000 retailers throughout the United States have had to recall the meat, including prominent stores such as Walmart and dozens of smaller convenience stores

California had the most retailers affected by the recall. More than 1,200 retailers were affected in the state.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service's recall classification list. Class I is most serious, while Class III is least serious.

Food Safety and Inspection Service

The Food Safety and Inspection Service's recall classification list. Class I is most serious, while Class III is least serious.

Another meat company had to recall thousands of pounds of meat because of improper inspection procedure last week, as well.

On Feb. 26, Santa Maria Foods Corporation – a Canadian meat company – recalled nearly 9,000 pounds of various meat products because the products were imported into the United States without the benefit of a full U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection, according to a Food Safety and Inspection Service news release.

The specific products subject to the recall include various Mastro salami products, Mastro Mortadella with Pistachios and Mastro Jambon de Paris Cooked Ham Jambon Cuit. Packages of the recall product bear the Canadian establishment number “340” or “224.”

Santa Maria Foods Corporation distributed the meat products throughout Arizona, California and Florida. A U.S. distributor then also exported the products to Australia, Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji and Thailand.

“Without full inspection, a remote possibility of adverse health consequences exists,” stated the news release.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service categorized the recall as a Class II, low-risk food recall.

FDA announces several other food recalls throughout late February

In addition to the Food Safety and Inspection Service recalls, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced other recalls because of undeclared allergens and possible bacteria contaminations.

On Feb. 20, the FDA announced that Falafel King of Colorado issued a recall for its 10-ounce containers of Hatch Green Chile Hummus and its 8.5-ounce containers of Hatch Green Chile Wraps because the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a type of dangerous bacteria.

The recalled Hatch Green Chile Hummus is marked by the UPC number 822986-10305-2. The Hatch Green Chile Wraps are marked by the number 822986-70205-7.

Falafel King distributed the contaminated products to retail stores in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Nebraska.

The FDA reported that, as a result of the recall, the company has changed the way it processes green chilies. Falafel King will now heat all its chili to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit and then cool it before adding it to its products.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the product.

On Feb. 23, the FDA announced that Roos Foods of Delaware issued a recall for a variety of its cheeses because the products may also be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Food inspectors discovered the problem when a sample of cheese collected by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services tested positive for the dangerous bacteria.

The specific recalled cheese products are under the brand names “Mexicana,” “Amigo,” “Santa Rosa De Lima” and “Anita.”

The cheese products were distributed throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.

An undisclosed number of illnesses have been linked to the cheese products.

Roos Foods has ceased production and distribution of products, and the FDA is further investigating he source of the problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines Listeria monocytogenes as a bacterium that can cause fevers, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms when consumed. Extreme cases can turn into septicemia or meningitis.

On Feb. 19, the FDA announced that Fannie May Confections Brands recalled 12,000 red, heart-shaped gift boxes of assorted chocolates because one piece of candy contained peanuts, and the label on the box did not list peanut as an ingredient.

According to an FDA news release, the recalled products have the lot numbers “13344,” “13345,” “13361,” “14010” and “14014.”

The heart-shaped boxes were sold to grocery stories and gift shops throughout the Midwest. Retailers that carried the product included Walgreens, Hallmark Gift Shops and Jewel Grocers.

At the time of the news release, at least one person had to seek medical care because of an allergic reaction to the undeclared peanuts.

On Feb. 28, the FDA announced that Unilever United States, Inc. voluntarily issued a recall for an undissolved number of 20-count boxes of Popsicle brand Orange, Cherry and Grape-flavored ice pops. The frozen treats may have been inadvertently exposed to milk, an ingredient not listed on the box’s label.

Consumers can recognize the recalled products by the best-before dates “JUN0315GBV,” “JUN0415GBV” and “JUN0615GBV,” according to an FDA news release.

Unilever distributed the recalled ice pops nationwide.

At the time of the new release, Unilever received at least one report of two different milk allergic reactions associated with the product.

Other FDA recall announcements for undeclared allergens included announcements for Fairway brand grilling sauce that contained undeclared fish, Tom Yom soup that contained undeclared milk and Lotte brand frozen fruit bars that contained undeclared peanuts.

Food allergies in the United States are responsible for about 30,000 trips to emergency room and 2,000 hospitalizations annually, according to the FDA. About 150 people die from food allergies a year.

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