/* mobile /* end mobile MEDDESKTOP: Government Looks At Meat Production After Larget Meat Recall In History.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Government Looks At Meat Production After Larget Meat Recall In History.

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."

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