Canadian beef mislabeling leads to US recall

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Aug 3, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – A Pennsylvania firm has voluntarily recalled about 170,000 pounds of ground beef patties made partly from Canadian beef that was mislabeled and ineligible for import to the United States, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced recently.

Imports of Canadian beef have been restricted since the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canada in May 2003. Ground beef is among the items still not allowed into the United States.

Quaker Maid Meats, Inc., of Reading, Penn., is recalling 5-pound boxes of "Philly-Gourmet, 100% pure beef, homestyle patties" with packaging codes of 1974 or 2024; 3-pound boxes of "Philly-Gourmet, 100% pure beef, homestyle patties" with packaging codes of 1974 or 2024; and 3-pound boxes of "The Philly Homestyle Beef Patty" with packaging codes of 1984 or 2014.

The products also contain "Est. 2748" inside the USDA inspection mark, according to a Jul 28 news release from FSIS. The patties were produced on July 15, 16 19, and 20 and were shipped to distribution centers and stores in Florida, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The class III recall carries no health risk in part because the meat came from cattle younger than 30 months old, which are considered too young to have BSE, Matt Baun, an FSIS spokesman, told CIDRAP News.

Reuters news service quoted USDA officials as saying the mislabeling occurred in Canada and the incident poses no risk to human health. USDA said the recalled beef was safe to eat because, although it was made using hydraulic pressure, central nervous system tissue had already been removed from the carcasses, according to news reports.

In BSE-infected cattle, central nervous system tissue is considered likely to contain the misshapen proteins, or prions, associated with the disease. US beef import rules are aimed at keeping spinal cord material and other high-risk cattle tissues out of the food supply.

The USDA banned all imports of Canadian beef and live cattle after the BSE case was discovered in 2003. The agency reopened the border to boneless meat (but not ground meat) from cattle younger than 30 months old, boneless veal from calves younger than 36 weeks, and fresh or frozen beef liver in August 2003. Live cattle and other categories of beef are still banned.

The Canadian government, which discovered the problem, has temporarily prohibited Quaker Maid's beef supplier in Canada from exporting to the United States, according to Reuters.

Consumers with food safety questions can phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (or 1-888-674-6854) weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

See also:

Jul 28 FSIS news release
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_028_2004_Release/index.asp

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