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Meat Quality Scandal A PR Nightmare

At a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R- Texas) assailed the Humane Society for waiting four months to inform the federal government that it had an undercover video of cattle being abused at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company. His criticism echoed a point made last week by Ed Schafer, the secretary of agriculture.

As the meat industry scrambles to recover from the public-relations disaster, Humane Society representatives say that the criticism is misplaced. They say the primary concern of their organization is animal welfare, not food safety. As soon as they had the tape they took it to local prosecutors in California, but were asked to stay silent while the prosecutors investigated. The society released the tape after growing frustrated with the pace of that investigation.

The recall of meat from Westland/Hallmark has focused attention on potential food safety hazards, especially since some of the meat was served to schoolchildren. Slaughtering cattle that cannot walk, known as "downer" cattle, poses a slight risk of introducing disease into the food supply.



Read the whole story at The New York Times »

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