Progresso Soup, Hot Pockets, Other Foods Recalled in Wake of Hallmark/Westland Meat RecallFeb 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The makers of Progresso Soup and Hot Pockets are recalling some products because they contain Hallmark/Westland meat. Earlier this month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company recalled 143 million pounds of meat, following a videotape of plant workers treating cattle cruelly and violating federal regulations. Most meat has likely been consumed; at least 37 million pounds were used for school lunches—the company is a top supplier to that program—and federal nutrition programs. In the wake of this scandal, two of the world's largest packaged-food companies—General Mills Inc. of Minneapolis and Nestlé Prepared Foods Company, part of Nestlé SA of Switzerland—said they are also recalling products.
General Mills said it began a recall of 35,000 cases of its Progresso Italian Wedding soup because it contained beef from a supplier that received meat from Hallmark/Westland. A company spokeswoman said she couldn't say whether all of the product had been removed from store shelves yet; each case of soup contains between six and 12 cans. Nestlé said it recalled some boxes of Hot Pockets sandwiches that contain beef from a vendor that used Hallmark/Westland, including some Philly Steak & Cheese sandwiches and some Croissant Crust Philly Steak & Cheese sandwiches sold in two-pack boxes. A Nestlé spokeswoman said the recall involves about 49,000 cases of Hot Pockets; each case contains eight boxes. Nestlé told retailers to remove the product from stores. Minnesota supermarket chain Supervalu, Inc., said it began removing the Progresso soup and Hot Pockets items, as well as some frozen ground-beef patties linked to the recall. A spokeswoman for Hormel Foods Corporation said no Hormel products were recalled;
however, one of its subsidiaries—Southern California’s Farmer John's—will recall a "small amount" of hot dogs and cotto salami.
Yesterday, Steve Mendell, president of Hallmark/Westland failed to appear before a congressional food-safety hearing and key Democrats are now considering whether to subpoena him. Committee Chairman John Dingell and investigations panel Chairman Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, were concerned when Mendell didn't appear at the congressional hearing. "It appears he has refused our offer to testify voluntarily," Dingell said. "We now will have to consider whether we need to compel his appearance to probe how onsite USDA inspectors could have missed these safety problems and the inhumane treatment of the animals that were slaughtered there," Dingell added. The Humane Society video, played at the hearing, showed workers kicking sick cows and forcing them to stand with prods and forklifts. The federal government prohibits slaughterhouses from killing so-called downer cows for human consumption.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed yesterday that a six-year-old dairy cow in Alberta had mad-cow disease, Canada's 12th case since 2003. The cow posed no risk to human health since it wasn't milking at the time and no part of the animal entered the food supply, said George Luterbach, the agency's senior veterinarian. The animal was likely fed contaminated feed in her first year of life, he said. The farmer consulted his veterinarian, euthanized the cow, and sent samples to a provincial lab for testing. The positive result was confirmed yesterday and the government is looking for other animals born within 12 months on the same farm.