House Committee Expected to Subpoena Head of Recalled-Beef Plant

March 6, 2008

House lawmakers are expected to order the head of the company responsible for the largest beef recall in U.S. history to appear before Congress.

The subpoena, if approved, comes a little more than week after the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. chief executive apparently didn’t show up to testify at a congressional hearing on food safety. Several food company executives were invited.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight is scheduled to vote to subpoena Steve Mendell, the co-owner of the plant.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell expects lawmakers to approve the action, which will legally require Mendell to testify March 12, according to a committee spokesman.

“Mendell’s testimony will assist the committee in understanding not only what went wrong with this meat recall, but what can be done to repair our safety net and prevent similar problems in the future,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, who chairs the subcommittee on oversight.

Westland/Hallmark recalled $143 million pounds of beef last month after the U.S. Humane Society exposed video of workers breaking rules that prevent sick cattle from entering the food supply.

The video showed workers kicking and shoving sick and crippled cows and forcing them to stand with electric prods, forklifts and water hoses.

A woman who answered the telephone at Chino, Calif.-based Westland/Hallmark’s headquarters said no one was available to comment.

Dingell and other House Democrats are considering legislation that would give government regulators power to order food recalls. Currently the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture work with companies to organize voluntary recalls.

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