About 4,595 tons of meat and meat products were recalled during the first quarter of 2010, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

ground-beef9-featured.jpgTwenty-one recalls were recorded during the quarter.  The largest recall for over 5.7 million pounds of beef and veal came in two stages by Montebello, CA-based Huntington Meat Packing.  The first 864,000 pounds of beef was recalled Jan. 18 for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

It was expanded to include another 4.9 million pounds of beef and veal on Feb. 12 because FSIS came to the conclusion that Huntington’s output between Jan. 4 and 12 was made “under insanitary conditions.”

The second largest meat recall was by Windsor Foods, which had to call back 1.7 million pounds of ready-to-eat beef taquitos and chicken quesadillas because they contained Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein from Nevada’s Basic Food Flavors, which was contaminated with Salmonella.

The only other recall involving more than a million pounds was by Rhode Island-based Daniele International Inc., which announced recalls on three occasions that totaled 1.4 million pounds.  Daniele’s ready-to-eat meats, including Italian-style salami made under its own brand was coated with pepper that proved to be contaminated with Salmonella.

And while there are no known illnesses associated with yet with either Huntington or Windsor, the outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo linked to the pepper problem is the same strain that has made 252 people sick in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Salmonella, either directly or though the HVP recall, accounted for more meat and meat products recalled than any other pathogen during the quarter.  About 3.22 million pounds can be considered Salmonella-related recalls.

If only the first 864,000 pounds of Huntington’s beef is counted as E. coli-related, the total that is O157-related is less than one million pounds for the quarter.  FSIS lists the added 4.9 million pounds recalled by Huntington as “adulterated,” not necessarily E. coli-contaminated.

Clearly there are additional shoes to drop from the giant Huntington recall.  When the expanded recall was announced, FSIS announced there was an ongoing criminal investigation underway.

“The investigation has uncovered evidence to show that the food safety records of the establishment cannot be relied upon to document compliance with the requirements,” FSIS said.

The criminal probe is being conducted by USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) with assistance from FSIS.

Huntington makes diced beef, beef burrito filling, ground beef, and veal patties under the Huntington, Imperial Meat Co., and El Rancho brands.

The first quarter included 14 Class I, High Health Risk recalls.   The other seven were Class II recalls with the health risk is not imminent.

Under a policy adopted in 2008, FSIS made public the lists of the retailers who were most likely to have received recalled meat seven times.   It is not required to do so for Class II recalls nor when retail lists are not available.