Update: According to several media reports, most of the tainted meat went through distribution centers in California, Texas, Illinois and Florida
Meat recalls are not terribly unusual, but the most recent posted by the USDA covers an extraordinary 8.7 million pounds of meat.
As part of a press release from the agency, it said the health risk was "high." In detail:
Rancho Feeding Corporation, a Petaluma, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 8,742,700 pounds, because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection. Thus, the products are adulterated, because they are unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food and must be removed from commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.
The key to the announcement was that the meat was produced "without the benefit of full inspection."
All of the meat recalled was either beef or veal. The majority of the meat was marketed in large packages from 20 pounds to 60 pounds. So, far, the agency said, no one has been sickened by the meat.
Food recalls are not unusual. There have been five in February, and nine in January.
The USDA does have a means by which consumers can remain up to date on recall issues. Called “Ask Karen," the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is available via phone 24 hours a day.
The agency's mandate is much broader than the control of meat products:
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
8.7 million pounds of meat may not be a record recall; the largest was 143 million pounds of hamburger recalled in 2008. Still, this new recall is certainly enough to show that the amount of tainted food products produced in the U.S. can be extraordinarily high.