Date: February 2008
Why it’s important: 2007 was a bad year for the ground beef industry, with 21 recalls affecting nearly 33.4 million pounds nationwide. But that paled in comparison to the recall from the California-based Westland/Hallmark meat company in early 2008, which involved 143 million pounds of ground beef. What’s worse, most of that had already made its way onto supermarket shelves and had been consumed. Some of it was used in school lunch programs.
The recall, which included beef from the company dating back to 2006, occurred after an undercover Humane Society worker captured video of Westland slaughterhouse workers abusing downed cattle. The video prompted widespread outrage over the animals’ treatment, but also raised safety concerns: Cattle that cannot walk are often weak and potentially diseased, and are banned from entering the food supply. The scandal called into question the ability of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to safely and effectively regulate the US meat industry, and Westland/Highland was forced into bankruptcy.