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Posted on Thu, Mar. 13, 2003

Bush administration opposes releasing retailer lists during meat recalls

EMILY GERSEMA

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Legislation forcing meat companies to tell consumers which stores received possibly tainted meat would hinder meat recalls because companies would resist sharing proprietary information, the Bush administration says.

Elsa Murano, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety, told a House subcommittee Wednesday the administration would oppose the measure because it would not benefit consumers.

Companies would become less cooperative, she said, making it harder for the department to track retailers and wholesalers that sold the recalled meat. That would mean more people would be at risk of getting sick.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said she was considering legislation in the wake of food-poisoning outbreaks that killed nine people last year. She said a law requiring processors to tell consumers which supermarkets sold the meat would protect the public.

"This is not about a company's bottom line," DeLauro said. "This is about the public's safety."

Consumer advocates argued that consumers need to know if stores sold recalled meat.

"If even one person took action based on having the information and therefore avoided getting sick, it would be worth having that information available," said Carol Tucker Foreman, head of the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute.

The meat industry says consumers are given enough details when meat is recalled to pick it out of their refrigerators and take it back to the store.

In a recall, the department discloses the type of meat being pulled, as well as the day it was processed and its "sell by" date.

"The most important thing for the consumer to know is all of the establishment codes and the product code dates," said Janet Riley, spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute. "That's what tells them whether they've got the product or not."

Also on Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers who have been critical of how the department handles recalls wrote to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, calling for an investigation into ConAgra Beef.

The company's Greeley, Colo., plant was linked to 42 illnesses last summer, prompting the recall of 19 million pounds of ground beef after inspectors found harmful E. coli bacteria in some hamburger meat. ConAgra sold the plant to meatpacker Swift & Co. in September.

"We urge USDA to fully investigate the company's conduct and consider seeking criminal penalties against the company and any officials who acted recklessly," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by DeLauro, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Sherrod Brown, both of Ohio.

Alisa Harrison, a spokeswoman for Veneman, declined to comment, saying officials were still reviewing the letter.

Chris Kricher, a spokesman for ConAgra, declined to comment on a possible investigation.

ON THE NET

Food Safety and Inspection Service: http://www.fsis.usda.gov
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansas...ws/5380018.htm

I understand the arguments on both sides, however, I noticed they said the "sell by date" one way consumers can tell if their meat is effected, but I have seen reports that many stores alter the sell by dates.

http://www.msnbc.com/news/753195.asp
 
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