- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

From combined dispatches
Most of the meat involved in the biggest food recall in history already has been consumed, according to food-processing industry officials.
U.S. poultry giant Pilgrim's Pride Corp. started the nation's largest meat recall in history on Oct. 9 and expanded it Sunday because of possible contamination by the deadly listeria bacteria.
The 27.4 million pounds of meat from the Wampler Food plant in Franconia, Pa., was produced between May 1 and Oct. 11.
"I would think the last two months' production is more likely to be the product that is still in the distribution cycle," Rich Cogdill, Pilgrim's Pride's chief financial officer, said in a conference call with news outlets Sunday.
"That product would probably total somewhere in the less than 10 million pound range."
U.S. consumer advocates yesterday blamed an "industry-friendly" Bush administration for a series of meat recalls on an unprecedented scale this summer, saying hundreds have fallen ill because Washington eased food safety standards.
Pilgrim's Pride, the No. 2 U.S. poultry producer, joins ConAgra Foods Inc., Smithfield Foods Inc. and privately held Cargill in withdrawing massive amounts of meat because of fears they may be tainted with harmful bacteria.
Carol Tucker Foreman, food policy director for the Consumer Federation of America, said that since the Bush administration took office, "there has been a message from [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] that they would give the benefit of the doubt to the industry."
"And I believe that message has caused the industry to be less vigorous in preventing the problems in foodborne illness," she said.
Department of Agriculture spokesman Steven Cohen disagreed that stricter inspection standards would prevent such episodes as the Wampler Foods recall. He said the department has investigated the outbreak carefully, as well as the plant that issued the recall.
"I think it's disingenuous to suggest that if we had different regulation," the outbreak and recall could have been avoided, Mr. Cohen said.
Many companies, including Wampler Foods, do their own testing, he said.
"Requiring companies to do their own environmental testing really wouldn't have had impact on this situation," Mr. Cohen said.
Grocery stores in the Washington area said the meat recall probably would not be noticed by most consumers.


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