In a move that’s less of a step forward than a shuffle sideways, the USDA recently announced that during meat and poultry recalls the agency will begin naming the retailers that have received affected products. It’s a response to critics who complained when the USDA wouldn’t reveal the retailers—or schools—that had received any of the 143 million pounds of ground beef recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat earlier this year, the largest recall in U.S. history.
But there’s a catch, of course: The new policy wouldn’t have applied to that recall. That’s because the rule refers only to Class I recalls, the most serious category. Here’s the USDA on the distinction:
In Class II recalls, there is only a ‘remote possibility’ that the meat poses a health risk to consumers, said Richard Raymond, the department’s undersecretary for food safety. A Class I recall applies when there is a ‘good likelihood’ that a consumer will become ill or die if tainted food is eaten, he said.
Needless to say, lawmakers, who’d been urging the USDA to release all names, aren’t happy.