WSJ is reporting that Lawmakers and government investigators seized on the largest meat recall in U.S. history to set the table for changes in the nation's food-safety system, especially as it applies to school lunches.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Connecticut Democrat who heads a House subcommittee overseeing the Agriculture Department's budget, scheduled two food-safety hearings for March, at which top department officials are expected to testify. Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of a subcommittee on agriculture appropriations, has tentatively scheduled a hearing for Feb. 28. Meanwhile, Congress's investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, plans to look at food safety in the federal school-lunch program, which is run by the Agriculture Department.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose investigators have studied food-safety issues for more than a year, has invited top executives from a half-dozen food processors, including the president of Hallmark/Westland, to a hearing Tuesday on the beef recall and other safety issues.
Under rules designed to prevent mad-cow disease, meat companies are required to report downer cows to federal authorities. An Agriculture Department rule, finalized in July 2007, allows federal veterinarians to make a case-by-case decision on such cattle; some cattle, such as those with a broken leg, are still likely to be slaughtered for meat.
But businesses don't always follow the rules. In a 2006 report, the Agriculture Department's inspector general found that most companies visited didn't have adequate plans to reduce the risk of transmitting mad-cow disease, and that the department "did not always identify these deficiencies."
tag: Beef Recall, mad-cow disease, Hallmark/Westland, Agriculture Department,