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Only Half of Tainted Meat Recalled--UPDATE

Only about half the meat and poultry that was recalled in the U.S. because of suspected health hazards between 1998 and 2002 was actually recovered by the manufacturers. This is especially worrisome now that Mad Cow Disease has been discovered here. Researcher Neal Hooker says, "Manufacturers should have a better success rate, but they don't."

New regulations went into effect between 1998 and 2000, so when Hooker examined the latest recall records, he says, "I was hoping we would see that the more hazardous cases?would be more quickly acted upon and have higher recovery rates. But the answer was no.

"The smallest plants seem to do the best job," Hooker says. "I think it's because they have simpler distribution systems and know their customers better, and will accept more product than was actually included in a recall just for good customer relations.

"Right now, the USDA just asks a company if it made contact with retail outlets which distributed a product. There's very little follow-up. If a product is already in the grocery stores and the stores don't put up big signs about the potential hazard, people might not get the message.

"?If we ever have a major bioterrorism threat linked to the food supply, we should have the system in place that would create the sense of urgency to prevent problems. You want to be able to move very, very quickly, and that should be in the regulations."

UPDATE: Last December, Jill Crowson purchased ground beef from her local QFC supermarket and served it to her family. Shortly afterwards, she heard on a news report that a cow infected with Mad Cow Disease had been discovered in Washington State, resulting in a recall of 10,000 pounds of beef. Only after repeated phone calls and letters to QFC did she find out that the beef her family had eaten was part of the recall.

She thinks the grocery store should have warned her. But how could they tell who bought their beef? Easy?QFC gives customers an "advantage card" which tracks every purchase made. They have the addresses and phone numbers of all advantage card customers, so it would have been easy for them to trace the ones who bought the potentially tainted meat. Attorney Steve Berman says, "The technology that they created to track down their own customers and give them bonuses and savings also allowed them to potentially save their lives"?if only they had used it.

Lab 257 blows the lid off the stunning true nature and checkered history of Plum Island. It shows that the seemingly bucolic island on the edge of the largest population center in the United States is a ticking biological time bomb that none of us can safely ignore.

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