Proposal: Pinpoint meat recalls

Consumers may be told if their local grocery store got tainted meat during a recall under a new policy announced Friday by the Agriculture Department.

The planned rule change comes after the nation's biggest-ever beef recall: 143 million pounds from a slaughterhouse in Southern California.

Under the new rule, expected to be published next week and take effect 30 days later, retailers' names will be posted on the Agriculture Department Web site during so-called “Class I” meat and poultry recalls – those deemed to pose a definite public health risk.

Currently when there is a meat recall, the Agriculture Department makes public the name of the establishment recalling the meat, a description of the recalled product, and any identifying brand names or product codes. But the public is not told where it is being sold.

Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer said disclosing retailers' names during Class I recalls will allow the public to know when their health is at risk without creating unnecessary confusion or fear.

The decision drew mixed reactions. The meat industry, which has opposed any retailer disclosure, contended that the change may hurt consumers more than it helps them, because information may be incomplete or out-of-date.

Some consumer groups and lawmakers praised the new rule but said it didn't go far enough, while others criticized it outright for being limited to Class I recalls.