The Biggest Beef Recall in History

The USDA recalls 143 million pounds of meat from a California slaughterhouse where some of the cows were crippled. Much of the beef went to schools, and a good bit of it has likely already been eaten.

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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Live from the NPR studios at Bryant Park in mid-town Manhattan. This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. On-stop shopping for news, information and guitar hero - everywhere. We'll get to that in just a minute. I'm Alison Stewart. How you doing everybody?

Very pleased to welcome today's guest co-host. Who could it be? Who could - David Folkenflik. Name sound familiar? NPR's media correspondent. How did we rope you into this?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, host:

I think a long lasso.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FOLKENFLIK: (Unintelligible)

STEWART: See? That's what happens when you have a (unintelligible) right next…

FOLKENFLIK: What are you talking about? People are beating down the door.

STEWART: Because of BPP. Thank you for waking up early on a holiday and helping us out.

FOLKENFLIK: Hey, thanks for having me.

It's Monday, February 18th, 2008, also known as Presidents Day.

STEWART: Coming up on the show today, we're talking about the Olympics, right?

FOLKENFLIK: Steven Spielberg is bailing on Beijing because of China's role in Darfur. How much of that - difference is that going to make and how does a past Olympic protest panned out? We'll ask Olympic historian David Wallechinsky.

STEWART: And just because it's Monday and just because it's technically a holiday does not mean that two of our regular folks get out of duty this morning. Bill Wolff, our sports analyst and my significant other, will join to talk all things NASCAR and NBA All-Star. Jim VandeHei on the presidential race. And you know, David, Jim has got a dog in this race, sort of. He's from Wisconsin.

FOLKENFLIK: Oh, a badger.

STEWART: See? There you go. The primary is there tomorrow.

FOLKENFLIK: Switching to another part of the country. Back in October, we talked how Hurricane Katrina victim Lindsey Huckabee in Mississippi who is living in a FEMA trailer with her husband and three kids. We'll see how their lives are going on. The CDC has confirmed many FEMA trailers are contaminated with high level of formaldehyde.

We'll get to today's headlines in just a minute, but first, here's the BPP's big story.

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STEWART: Meat, meat, meat. The largest recall of beef in U.S. history was issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday. How much meat? Try 143 million pounds from a controversial California slaughter house.

FOLKENFLIK: That's enough for 572 million quarter pounders, if my math is right. But so far it appears the food didn't go to McDonalds or Burger King. Roughly 37 million pounds went to school hot lunch programs with more to native American food shelves and to other federal food and nutrition programs and it's likely much of the beef has already been eaten.

STEWART: Now the order covers all beef products from February of 2006 from Westland-Hallmark Meat Company. Does that name sound familiar? Well, an undercover video recently released by the Humane Society showed crippled cows, so called downers, being shoved with a forklift and abused in other ways at the company's facility. Injury might be to be blamed for the cows condition but it also raises the specter of other mobility impairing dieses like mad cow.

FOLKENFLIK: The USDA said it had no evidence that downers were entering the food supply but that changed yesterday. Under Secretary of Agriculture for the Office of Food Safety Richard Raymond says the recall is not a response to tainted food, it's about the Westland Hallmark cows not getting a proper inspection.

Dr. RICHARD RAYMOND (Under Secretary of Agriculture for the Office of Food Safety, United States Department of Agriculture): The risk is close to zero as you can get but is not 100 percent zero because we do not have the opportunity to reevaluate these animals to see if they went down because of their acute injury like a fracture as oppose to a chronic illness like some, you know, sepsis or infection.

STEWART: A California prosecutor has charged to Westland Hallmark workers in connection with the abuses that was shown in that Humane Society video.

FOLKENFLIK: And let me just add that dangerous or not, the names of the things on the recall list could make you a vegetarian pretty much either way. Burrito filling mix, beef feet, salivary glands, lymph nodes and fat, beef blood 0.2 percent sodium citrate, added beef bile

STEWART: Good morning everybody. Hey, you know what? Let's stop it right there. That's the BPP's big story.

FOLKENFLIK: I was just having fun.

STEWART: Now lets get some more of today's headlines and a beagle.

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