I also get that the San Francisco foodie community is upset that they are having trouble getting their fix of grass-fed, organic beef. I also get that ranchers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers are likely being caught up in this mess.
However, as frustrating as the lack of information is, there are good reasons why FSIS officials and the owners of Rancho are limiting their comments on the recall of nearly 9 million pounds of meat stretching over a year (the company’s third recall of 2014).
USDA’s Office of Inspector General is investigating. Because it is a potential criminal investigation, Rancho’s owners and employees are wise to limit what they say without the benefit of a lawyer. FSIS is also holding things close to the vest because it risks interfering with OIG’s investigation. The lack of information is frustrating, but to do otherwise risks due process.
FSIS maintains that Rancho “processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection.” That is a serious charge, and, although there have been no reported illnesses linked to this recall, processing animals under these conditions carry food safety risks, plus it is against the law.
FSIS is also caught between a rock and a hard place. If no one becomes ill, and the recall is possibly deemed unnecessary, the agency will be criticized for overreacting. However, if the evidence went the other way, and FSIS did not issue a recall, they would be criticized for not doing their job.
In my view, public safety has to trump business interests, and transparency cannot overtake due process. As frustrating as it is, we all have to let the investigation play out.© Food Safety News