USDA Response To Canadian E. Coli-Tainted Beef Criticized As 'Stunningly' Slow

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 24: A stack of ground beef patties moves on a conveyor belt at a meat packing and distribution facility June 24, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Livestock owners are experiencing a sharp increase in the price of corn-based animal feed as corn and soybean prices skyrocket due to an estimated 2 million acres of crop damage from the recent Midwest flooding and the continually rising fuel costs. Due to the increase in feed costs, consumers which will get hit in the wallet as prices of meat, dairy and eggs are expected to increase sharply. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 24: A stack of ground beef patties moves on a conveyor belt at a meat packing and distribution facility June 24, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Livestock owners are experiencing a sharp increase in the price of corn-based animal feed as corn and soybean prices skyrocket due to an estimated 2 million acres of crop damage from the recent Midwest flooding and the continually rising fuel costs. Due to the increase in feed costs, consumers which will get hit in the wallet as prices of meat, dairy and eggs are expected to increase sharply. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Food & Water Watch, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group had some harsh words for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service this week -- calling attention to their slow response time to a massive Canadian beef recall over E. coli, and the agency's lack of a formal nationwide recall "stunning."

The ground meat has been recalled nationwide in Canada. Since this tainted beef is known to have entered the American food supply chain, Food & Water Watch is wondering why the government agency hasn't yet issued an official recall in addition its Public Health Alert.

In their release, titled "Where's The Recall?" (published on September 21st), Food & Water Watch's Wenonah Hauter details the timeline of the situation:

After knowing for 17 days that they had a potential public health crisis on their hands, the management of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finally issued a ‘Public Health Alert’ at 9:00 p.m. on September 20, 2012 regarding tainted beef that had crossed the border from Canada. Stunningly, they have yet to issue a recall on that meat despite the fact that the Canadian authorities have issued a recall, and that meat is presently in at least eight U.S. states.

As reported by Food Safety News, the FSIS says that, "since the Canadian firm has already initiated a recall, the U.S. meat safety agency's role is limited to conducting effectiveness checks of the recall."

But is that enough action? U.S. grocery chain Albertson's has voluntarily recalled ground beef products sold at its stores in Oregon, Washington and Idaho -- although the FSIS statement indicates that tainted beef may also have been sold in California, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

The Biggest Food Safety Disasters Of 2012