U.S. Represenatative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, called for the closure of Beef Packers, Inc. after the company recalled over 22,000 pounds of beef potentially contaminated with Salmonella Newport.
Fresno, CA-based Beef Packers, owned by food giant Cargill, produces one hundred million pounds of ground beef annually, operating three shifts a day, and provides employment for 1,057 people. It slaughters 1,600 to 1,800 head of cattle per day, and has been in business since the 1930s–it has also had some food safety slip ups as of late.
Last summer, the company recalled over 825,000 pounds of beef connected to the same strain dangerous of Salmonella. In 2008, the company recalled over 1,500 pounds of beef for E. coli O157:H7 contamination and was cited for inhumane handling.
The company also came under fire last week for its role as a supplier for the National School Lunch Program. The USA Today published a story questioning whether the federal meal program should have accepted almost half a million pounds of ground beef produced by the company around the time of the summer Salmonella-linked recall.
“This is another glaring example of the problems we face in our nation’s food safety system,” said DeLauro in a statement Monday. “Beef Packers, Inc. has repeatedly shown their inability to meet current safety measures, and continues to pose a health risk not only to the general population, but to our children through the school lunch program.”
“Given the repeated violations of Beef Packers, Inc., the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] should close this facility and undertake a comprehensive examination into the process at Cargill-BPI to identify and correct any major problems internally or with their suppliers,” added DeLauro.
Cargill responded to DeLauro’s statement: “Since Beef Packers Inc.’s voluntary product recall in August 2009, we have undertaken a comprehensive examination of our processes and believe that this review can continue without the closure of the Fresno operation,” the company told Meatingplace. “This comprehensive examination has already resulted in process improvements and implementation of additional food safety enhancements at the Fresno operation. Additionally, we will be convening a panel of respected food safety and public health experts to conduct a third-party evaluation of our Fresno business.”
The USDA responded to Meatingplace, “[Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)] has acted aggressively in the wake of both the August 5th and December 4th Beef Packers recalls for Salmonella raw ground beef. FSIS has conducted an on-going investigation and ensured that Beef Packers implemented corrective measures that include several significant improvements, such as a new anti-microbial intervention, and modifications to the operations at the Beef Packer facility,” said FSIS spokesman Brian Mabry.
“If FSIS determines that Beef Packers’ corrective measures are not sufficient to address these problems, FSIS can and will take additional actions,” Mabry told Meatingplace.