Bad Beef Update: Was the USDA Recall a BIG SHAM?

So. We were reading one of our favorite food blogs, Tigers & Strawberries, where Barbara always has pointed and educated things to say on current food news.

Regarding last weekend's massive recall of 143 million pounds of ground beef, most of which was already sold to schools, Barbara pointed out that the USDA actually has no legal authority to order a recall of meat.

What?

Indeed. It turns out that the USDA can only ask companies to voluntarily recall food that is suspected be unsafe. We quote from Barbara:

The USDA, even though it is in part a regulatory agency charged with overseeing the safety of the US food supply, does not have the legal authority to order recalls of diseased, tainted or otherwise unsafe food products.

The best that the USDA can do is ask food producers to voluntarily remove unsafe products from the human food chain, hopefully before too many people get sick and die.

Interesting, isn't it? We suggest you read the entire article at Barbara's blog - as always she is very worth reading. She goes deeper into the issues surrounding entire system of feedlots and treating animals as commodities.

We did a little extra digging and discovered that the USDA argues that its voluntary recall authority is enough. They say their system works. According to this OSU Extension Factsheet, the government can indeed order an involuntary recall if a corporation refuses to respond to an invited recall. To this date, no company ever has refused a voluntary recall.

Check out these additional resources:
Ethicurean: USDA Recall Authority
Tainted Meat? The USDA Will Tell You - Someday
FSIS Food Recalls at USDA

Tired of worrying about all this? Buy local meat.

Good Beef: How to Find Local Meat

Do Pampered Cows Taste Better?

One-Minute Tip: How to Cook Grass-Fed Beef

(Image credit: Cargill Food Service)