Five weeks after the Human Society's damning undercover video of the Westland/Hallmark slaughterhouse showed the illegal slaughtering of so-called "downer" cows, and more than two weeks after the firm recalled two years' worth of meat, the public still does not know which stores sold the beef.
No illnesses have been reported as a result of the illicit cow-handling practices, but killing cows that can't stand and slaughtering them for human consumption raises the likelihood that the meat is infected with an animal pathogen, such as Mad Cow Disease, or potentially deadly bacteria from animal wastes. The meat recall was the largest in U.S. history, and put the slaughterhouse out of business.
But only residents in California, where state law mandates the disclosure of retail outlets that sold recalled products, have all the information they need to protect themselves.
For two years, according to USA Today, the White House has been sitting on a proposed law to mandate full disclosure of all retail outlets during recalls. Under pressure from Congress, the USDA is still balking at the demand to disclose those locations.
No doubt, retailers don't want the black eye. But consumer are smart enough to know that retailers aren't typically responsible for selling a bad product. It's typically the supplier who sells the tainted beef or the toxic toy, and the regulator who fails to catch it, that draw the ire of consumers (though, granted, retailers would do well to exercise their own oversight to protect their customers). We just want to know if we bought the thing, so we can get rid of it. To do that, it helps to know who sold it.
The episode is another wake-up call to us all about the anonymity of the food supply chain. Unless you buy local and know your farmer, it's hard to know just where your food comes from.
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