Bloomberg News

Cargill Recall a ‘Shake-Up’ on Poultry Safety, Hagen Says

September 28, 2011

(Updates with Tyson recall, food-safety costs, starting in third paragraph.)

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The recall of about 36 million pounds of Cargill Inc. turkey meat “shook people up” to the need for tougher poultry rules, said Elisabeth Hagen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for food safety.

“You’re going to see some steps from the agency on ground poultry,” Hagen said, without elaboration, in a briefing on food safety today in Washington. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which Hagen leads, will take “a proactive approach to prevent people from getting sick,” she said.

Cargill began the second-biggest U.S. meat recall in early August during a salmonella outbreak that killed one person and sickened more than 70 others. That and other safety scares, including listeria infections linked to cantaloupes that have killed 13, have prompted calls for stricter government oversight of the food supply. A unit of Tyson Foods Inc. is recalling 131,300 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, the USDA said early today in an e-mail.

Funding for food safety is being pressured by congressional spending cuts. The Food Safety and Inspection Service budget would be reduced 3.4 percent to $972.7 million in the year beginning Oct. 1 under the appropriations bill the House of Representatives passed in June, while the Senate’s plan would leave funding unchanged.

Food-Poisoning Costs

Food poisoning strikes an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. each year, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne illnesses cost the nation’s economy about $152 billion annually in health-care expenses and lost productivity, according to a 2010 report by Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project in Washington.

The USDA regulates, meat, poultry and egg products while the Food and Drug Administration oversees the other 80 percent of the food supply.

Cargill is based in Minneapolis, while Tyson Foods, the largest U.S.-based meat producer, has its headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas.

--Editors: Daniel Enoch, Larry Liebert.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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