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(回答先: へたり牛：米業者、処理認める 下院公聴会（毎日新聞） 投稿者 クマのプーさん 日時 2008 年 3 月 13 日 14:43:41)
California beef plant tied to recall admits problems
Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:13pm EDT
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the California firm involved in the largest U.S. meat recall in history took responsibility on Wednesday for the problems at his facility and told lawmakers for the first time that meat from illegally processed cattle may have entered the food supply.
Steve Mendell, president of Hallmark/Westland Meat Co, initially said his firm had complied with federal rules prohibiting most so-called downer cattle from being processed.
He soon backed away from that claim after watching a video, secretly taken at his plant, during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that he had not previously seen.
"That would be logical, yes, sir," to assume that meat from at least two downer cows entered the food supply, said Mendell, who added that it would be premature to conclude definitively until it had been fully investigated.
A videotape released on January 30 by The Humane Society of the United States showed Hallmark/Westland workers using abusive techniques, including ramming animals with forklift blades and using a hose to simulate the feeling of drowning, to force sick and injured cattle into the slaughterhouse so they could be processed into food.
The California plant later recalled 143 million pounds of meat, mostly beef, dating back to February 2006.
"It is devastating because of the possible risk to the food supply," said John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican. "We are under pressure to get this right."
Mendell told lawmakers the abuse in the videos was "an oversight" that has ruined the company, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars and leaving it in ruins. He called the evidence in the video "sickening."
"I think his testimony was clear that that videotape was a legitimate concern on food safety. It was the first time he saw that," Asa Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman and Mendell's attorney, told reporters.
The meat was recalled because the plant butchered downer cattle in violation of federal rules. Beef from downer cattle -- defined as an animal too ill or injured to walk -- is usually not allowed in the food supply. The rule was adopted as a safeguard against "mad cow" and other diseases.
In this case, the cattle could not stand at the time of slaughter, although they passed inspection earlier. Packers are required to alert USDA veterinarians in those cases so they can decide if the animal can be slaughtered for food.
"Our intention was never to drive this plant out of business," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "That plant engaged in irresponsible behavior and this is a consequence of that."
The U.S. Agriculture Department has been widely criticized for missing the problems at the slaughter plant in Chino, California. Since the investigation began, the USDA has placed three employees on administrative leave.
Agriculture Undersecretary Richard Raymond, who oversees USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the department does not plan to ban all downer cattle from being processed as some lawmakers and consumer groups have suggested.
"An animal that has passed inspection ... doesn't appear to have any chronic health problems and then falls and breaks its leg. There is no reason that represents a threat to the food supply of this country," said Raymond. "This company violated the rule" by not notifying USDA inspectors.
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