NEWS2U Health & Wellness
Living Healthy in an Unhealthy World

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Meat from sick, abused cows gets into schools

By Sue Mueller

The Humane Society of the United States released a video tape today on Jan 30, 2008 suggesting that poor families, elderly people and school children participating in the school luncheon program sponsored by the U.S. government may have eaten sick and abused cow meat and may be at high risk of mad cow disease.

In the video, cows that are too sick to pass the United States Department of Agriculture inspection are subject to a range of tortures to stimulate them to walk through the inspection.

The downers are not supposed to be processed into any meat intended for human consumption.

According to a statement released by the society, the USDA announced on Dec. 30, 2003 that "Effective immediately, the USDA will ban all downer cattle from the human food chain."

The USDA decision came one week after public disclosure of the first US case of mad cow disease or BSE in a downed dairy cow in Washington State. The agency cited Swiss data in the Jan 12, 2004 Federal Register notice saying that the odds of finding BSE in downers is 49 to 58 times higher than other cows.

In addition to mad cow disease, downers often suffer certain diseases and may likely harbor other food-borne transmissible pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, which kill hundreds of Americans each year.

The meat processor in the video is at the Hallmark Meat Packing Co., of Chino, California. "In the video, workers are seen kicking cows, ramming them with the blades of a forklift, jabbing them in the eyes, applying painful electrical shocks and even torturing them with a hose and water in attempts to force sick or injured animals to walk to slaughter," the Humane Society states.

The meat processed by Hallmark's Chino, California slaughter plant is shipped to the Westland Meat Co., which processes the carcasses. According to the society, this facility is the second largest supplier of beef to USDA's commodity Procurement Branch, which distributes the beef to needy families, the elderly and also schools through the National School Lunch Program.

Westland's business covers more than 100,000 schools and child care facilities in 36 states under this national lunch program. The company issued a statement on its website saying that "We are shocked, saddened and sickened by what we have seen today."

The society is urging the public to call upon the USDA to stop the inhumane treatment of the sick cows and prevent the meat from sick cows from entering any food chain.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said he was sure there was no health risk involved, but the case was under investigation, Reuters reported.

Mad cow disease has been found only in two cows in the United States since 2003 when the first mad cow was found. The U.S. government has scaled back its surveillance of the disease after a few years of minotering and finding that the disease is extremely rare in the country.

Beef in the U.S. market has not been subject to testing for mad cow disease and the government does not allow private sectors to perform any type of tests.