So-called “downer” cows that are too ill to walk are not allowed into the food supply due to a higher instance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy ( mad cow disease)—which is why an undercover video taken by animal rights activists is causing a stir at the USDA.
The video shows cows that are too sick to walk being lifted and prodded with forklifts in order to get them to move into the slaughter box. Although the USDA says it doesn’t have proof that the sick cows entered the food supply, just the simple fact that workers were hitting sick cows with forklifts while 8 USDA inspectors looked the other way was enough to prompt the agency to shut down the company.
From the LA Times:
Cliver, professor emeritus of food safety at UC Davis, said the suspension of the plant is “long past due.”
“It’s a shame when USDA has to read about this stuff in the newspaper before they take action,” he said. Cliver said he was especially shocked by the news, because as someone who has worked on food safety for 45 years, he believed in the federal inspection process. “That the most intensive inspection system we have was asleep on this situation bothers me enormously,” he said.
One retired food inspector, who once worked at Hallmark, said the USDA supervisor in charge of the plant had to have been aware of the practices shown in the Humane Society’s video.
“The supervisor should have known what was going on,” said Paul Carney, western council president for the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, the USDA inspectors’ union.
Bill Bullard, chief executive of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, an advocacy organization that represents cattle-raising farmers and ranchers, was also critical of the USDA’s lax enforcement.
“We would hope that this example will impress upon the USDA the need to bolster its inspection processes to enforce the current law that prohibits downer animals in the human food supply,” Bullard said.
USDA’s oversight of meat safety criticized [LA Times]