Stricter 'downer' rules would improve surveillance

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – In response to a massive 2008 beef recall in Chino, Calif., the US federal government is moving forward with a new regulation meant to increase the use of surveillance equipment in the nation's slaughterhouses, states the Press-Enterprise. Animal-rights activists, however, charge the move doesn't go far enough to prevent a repeat of the alleged abuse that took place at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. plant.

The facility was the site of the largest beef recall in US history – 143 million lbs. – after an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States provided video evidence that "downer" cows too hurt or weak to stand were beaten, electronically shocked and, ultimately, slaughtered.

Downer cows are to be kept from entering the food chain because they pose a greater risk of food-borne illness to humans. At that time, Westland/Hallmark was one of the top suppliers of beef to the national school-lunch program. The plant ultimately closed following the recall.

In the recall’s aftermath, the Agriculture Department's Office of Inspector General issued a paper calling for increased oversight of such facilities, which are regulated by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service.

In October, proposed regulations were issued that, if approved, would "make firms aware that video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment may be used in federally inspected establishments where meat and poultry are processed. The language was subject to a public comment period that concluded this month and is expected to take effect soon.
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