US agency orders beef recall
Meat made in California abattoir suspected to have come from mistreated cattle.
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2008 14:46 GMT
US officials insist the risk of mad cow disease is low to those who consumed the recalled kind of beef [EPA]

The US department of agriculture (USDA) has recalled 65,000 tonnes of beef produced in a Californian abattoir.
The plant is accused of mistreating animals, marking the largest beef recall in the country's history.
But the USDA described it as a "Class 2 recall, which means there is a low risk of consumers getting sick from the meat.
The recall was ordered because the plant violated rules that prohibit the slaughter of "downer" cattle - cattle that are unable to walk.
Cattle in such a state are not placed in the meat-manufacturing process, as a precaution against Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad-cow disease.

USDA officials said the meat, suspected to come from "downer" cattle, comes from animals slaughtered and processed since February 2006, when the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company was first discovered to be breaking animal-inspection rules.

Firm suspended
Ed Schafer, the US secretary of agriculture, said that Hallmark/Westland has been suspended by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) after determining the cattle "did not receive complete and proper inspection".
The federal government has also suspended food and nutrition contracts with the company.

Schafer said: "I am dismayed by the inhumane handling of cattle that resulted in the violation of food safety regulations."

"[But] it is extremely unlikely that these animals were at risk for BSE because of the multiple safeguards - however, this action is necessary because plant procedures violated USDA regulations."
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