USDA denies company request to recondition recalled meat
April 14, 1999
From Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen
SOUTHFIELD, Michigan (CNN) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday denied a request by Thorn Apple Valley company to allow a "reconditioning" of millions of pounds of meat deemed unfit to eat by the government agency.
In January, Thorn Apple Valley recalled all meat made at its Forrest City, Arkansas production plant. The recall comprised some 30 million pounds of meat of which the company says 20 million pounds was consumed.
The recall followed a USDA finding that the hot dogs, poultry and lunch combinations (lunch packages of meat, cheese, crackers and cookies) made at the plant from July to December 1998 could be tainted with dangerous listeria bacteria.
Following the January recall, Thorn Apple Valley asked the USDA if it could "recondition" the 10 million pounds of meat being held in company freezers so it could be sold.
Joel Dorfman, president of Thorn Apple Valley, says one way to "recondition" meat is to irradiate it to kill bacteria. It's illegal to sell such condemned food in the United States but the company, Dorfman says, could sell it to Russia, which permits such sales.
But Dorfman says the USDA told the company on Monday that it cannot "recondition" the recalled meat and sell it for human consumption.
Dorfman says he has no argument with the USDA's determination that the meat is unfit for human consumption and cannot be reconditioned. He says his company now plans on cooking the meat, which will kill the listeria, and selling it as pet food.
U.S. federal law permits the sale of condemned meat as pet food.
No illnesses or deaths have been reported in connection with consumption of the Thorn Apple Valley food, according to Dorfman and Beth Gaston, a spokeswoman for the USDA.
More than 12 million pounds of meat under the recall were exported to Russia and South Korea. USDA officials say the appropriate international officials are aware of the January recall.
USDA officials remind consumers to check their refrigerators for products with the codes "EST 13529" or "EST P-13529." Products bearing these numbers should be returned to the stores at which they were purchased.
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Thorn Apple Valley
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