In the largest recall of beef in United States history, Chino CA-based Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing will voluntarily take back more than 143 million pounds of raw and frozen meat discovered to be in violation of inspection rules.
The federal Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) said the cattle "did not receive complete and proper inspection." Hallmark/Westland did not "consistently contact the FSIS public health veterinarian in situations in which cattle became non-ambulatory" before being slaughtered, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statement.
Federal regulations normally prohibit slaughtering "downer cattle"—animals that cannot walk—to prevent mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said the FSIS has suspended Hallmark/Westland, and the federal government has suspended food and nutrition contracts with the firm.
The USDA did not indicate where the food products had been sold, though Washington state and California schools took beef off their lunch menus as a precaution.
The biggest previous recall occurred in 1999 and involved 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats.