Congress tackles food safety

February 26, 2008 5:11:45 PM PST
As a Congressional subcommittee opened hearings on food safety, the head of the company involved in a record beef recall refused to testify voluntarily.

Michigan congressman John Dingell, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said neither the Food and Drug Administration, nor the Agriculture Department have the resources to protect the nation's food.

Dingell said, "It is clear that our regulatory system is broken. It is plain that Food and Drug Administration does not have the personnel, it does not have the money, it does not have the resources, to carry out its important responsibilities."

The committee is contemplating whether to subpoena the chief of Westland/Hallmark, the company at the center of the recall, to testify.

CEO Steve Mendell refused to appear voluntarily.

There were reports over the weekend that Westland/Hallmark, second largest meat supplier to the federal school lunch program, may never re-open again, following the 143 million pound recall.

The recall grew out of an animal abuse investigation. An undercover video made by the Humane Society of the United States, shows company workers forcing sick cows into the slaughterhouse.

Meantime, the recall may be widening.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association told news reporters in Georgia it has learned that some of the beef made it into soups, sauces, bouillon cubes, and other products.