143 million pounds of beef recalled but everything’s fine

The USDA has issued the following recall:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the recall of 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef from a troubled Chino meat-packing company, deeming it unfit for human consumption because of lapses in required inspections.

Agriculture Department officials called this the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing the ban in 1999 of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meat.

The Punchline?

Department spokesman Keith Williams noted that today’s beef recall, while the largest in history, was not based on the same levels of concern for public health as in some prior recalls.

So either there is no health issue, but they just happened to issue the largest recall in beef history as part of some punitive measure against Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, in which case this is a fairly remarkable historical precedent or …

…or they crunched the math, ran some analysis and determined that they better issue the recall, just to be on the safe side, but they chose not to disclose a specific reason for fear of consumer backlash against all beef companies (See the Jack n the Box/ E. Coli scare for precedent of consumer behavior).

If it’s the former, it’s a rather big deal as it’s the first time the USDA has shown any teeth when it comes to a beef producer. If it’s the latter? It’s an even bigger deal, as the public deserves to know what the USDA is afraid of. At the moment, the story is still in development and details are still becoming known. But yeah, short take – this is a big deal. The problem here is that the former is completely contrary to recent USDA behavior, which makes trusting them here a tough pill to swallow. The latter is more in line with how they typically act.

For more in depth punditry surrounding this, I recommend Bonnie’s always reliable take on the issue.

Thanks to Jack of Fork & Bottle for the heads up.