In July 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would make public the names of retail stores that received tainted products. Coming soon after the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. recalled 143 million lbs of meat, then the largest meat recall in United States history, the USDA's plan was to name retail stores only when there was a good chance a person would become ill or die by consuming the meat or poultry product – so-called Class I recalls. Other recall classes, in which there was little or no chance of illness, would not be covered. Richard Raymond, the agriculture undersecretary who oversaw the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, noted: ‘We need this rule to reinstall confidence in the American public that we are in control here’.
For many critics, the USDA's ruling had less to do with public health than with restoring confidence in a meat industry shaken by a variety of health crises, in retailers anxious to avoid a reputation for carrying tainted meat, and in a Department caught unawares. While some lawmakers and consumer groups welcomed the new USDA ruling, many criticized it, claiming that, because it did not include all meat and poultry recalls, it failed to fully protect the public. As the debate spread across the internet and other media, the issues became more confused and complex.
- Publisher: Pickering & ChattoFirst published in: 2014