Problems at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. continue to escalate. Sunday, the troubled meat packer voluntarily recalled over 143,000,000 pounds of raw and frozen beef products that has been determined unfit for human consumption by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. The USDA said the recall was necessary because some of the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection.

The recall is the largest ever, dwarfing the 35 million pounds Thorn Apple Valley recalled in 1999. USDA officials told reporters most of the beef has likely already been consumed. Operations at the Chino, Calif.-based meat packer were suspended Feb. 4 by FSIS based on animal handling violations at the facility.

"We do not feel this product presents a health risk of any significance," Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond said. The recall is designated as Class II because there is only a remote possibility that the beef being recalled would cause adverse health effects if consumed.

The American Meat Institute added that the government has made clear that the recall is the result of non-compliance with inspection procedures, not food safety concerns. “It is important to note that the government has found no evidence that the meat was unsafe and has appropriately classified it as a ‘Class II recall,’ as opposed to a ‘Class I recall,’ which is used when there is a reasonable probability that a public health risk exists,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said, "As an organization representing beef producers, we have two expectations when our cattle leave our farms and ranches: that our animals are treated humanely and that every step is taken to produce safe beef. We support USDA's actions today to enforce the laws that ensure our cattle are handled with care and that our beef is produced safely."