Secretary Schafer addressed a board meeting of the National Meat Association on February 22nd, just five days after USDA announced the recall by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company of 143 million pounds of meat and the suspension of USDA contracts with the company. Some of his comments to this group of meat industry leaders would have been well received by a consumers' food safety advocacy group. Here are a few excerpts from the transcript of his speech:
"But something happened here that wasn't right, and we need to get to the bottom of it."These are laudable sentiments, coming from the head of a government department that has a history of putting industry ahead of consumers. Let's hope that USDA actions match Secretary Schafer's words.
"My focus I guess or my motto throughout my time in public service is boiled down to something that's pretty simple: Do the right thing."
"And you can count on that from me and USDA today that we will do the right thing here, now and in the future as we go forward."
"To other nations, this event raises a concern about the safety of our food processing system and the fact that we can provide a reason for them to keep our markets closed for U.S. products in the trade agreements. The only way that we can ally that concern is a thorough and credible investigation to promptly take any corrective actions that are called for, and we will do so."
"(I)n 1862 when President Lincoln formed the USDA he called it the People's Department . . . because he said it touches so many people in so many different ways."
"And I'm reminded today that what (sic) I believe: My customers are are the children of this country."