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The Story of the Largest Beef Recall in US History

A California company recalled almost 65 million kilograms of beef after evidence of animal abuse was reported. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

On February seventeenth, the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company of Chino, California, recalled almost sixty-five million kilograms of beef. The government declared the products unfit for human food. Officials at the Department of Agriculture said the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection.

The beef recall was the largest in American history. But the government rated the health risk as low. No cases of sickness have been reported.

The beef was produced over the last two years. Almost all of it went to federal programs to provide lunches for schoolchildren. Some also went to federal programs for Indian reservations and emergency food aid.

About half of the beef had already been used when the recall took place. The recall followed the public release of video secretly recorded by the Humane Society of the United States. The video showed workers at the Chino slaughterhouse mistreating "downers" -- the name for sick or injured cows unable to stand.

The workers kicked them and shot water at their faces. They also used electric shocks and forklift trucks to force the animals to their feet. The Agriculture Department bans downer cattle from entering the food supply. The ban is part of measures to protect against the human version of mad cow disease.

Westland/Hallmark is closed until investigations are completed, and its deals to supply federal programs are suspended. Local officials have brought animal cruelty charges against two employees. And lawmakers in Congress have ordered the head of the company to appear at a hearing this week, saying he refused an earlier invitation.

At the end of February, the Humane Society brought a lawsuit against the Agriculture Department over a change in its inspection rules. The group says the change made last year could make it easier for sick and injured cows to enter the food supply.

Officials defend the inspection process, but have also announced new measures, including inspections outside approved hours of operation.

When food recalls are announced, they often include the names of some of the stores that were supplied with the products. But under a new state law, California has published an online list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of thousands of places affected by the beef recall. These include markets, restaurants, hotels and school systems.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.