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California Beef Council responds to recall

California Beef Council chairman, Jim Maxey, a beef processor in Fresno, Calif., issued the following statement in response to the recall of beef products from Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., a Southern California packing plant.

"On Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., a Chino, Calif. establishment is voluntarily recalling approximately 143 million pounds of beef products produced since February 2006 because evidence shows they were produced in non-compliance with FSIS regulations.

As an organization committed to the betterment of the beef industry, we are supportive of actions to address violations of humane animal handling regulations, as well as established beef safety inspection procedures. The California Beef Council's members and staff are extremely concerned by the inhumane treatment of animals that was demonstrated in video footage recently released to the media. Our members represent all segments of the California beef industry, and it is important for the public to understand that this situation is an isolated incident, and something that our industry wholeheartedly disapproves and will not condone.

Consumers deserve the safest food possible and all segments of the beef industry take that commitment seriously. The California Beef Council supports efforts to ensure that animals are harvested under humane conditions and all food safety regulations are followed. In addition to its consumer education efforts, the California Beef Council also conducts and sponsors beef quality assurance programs with cattle producers to ensure a safe and wholesome beef supply.

The ban on non-ambulatory or "downer" cattle is one of many interlocking safety procedures designed to ensure that the U.S. beef supply is the safest in the world. The system is designed so that if there is a failure in one step, other interlocking safeguards are in place to ensure public health.

The public should keep in mind that this is a Class II recall, which means that there the possibility of adverse health effects from consuming beef included within the recall is extremely remote. The recall was issued in an abundance of caution and the California Beef Council is supportive of USDA's action as a precautionary measure. Foodservice operators that are concerned they may have received product affected by this recall should contact their supplier. They can also visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site for more information. The products subject to this recall were sent to wholesale distributors nationwide in bulk packages and are not available for direct purchase by consumers."

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