Do Department of Livestock recalls deny businesses due process?

Posted by David J. SteeleMay 19, 20170 Comments

When the meat packaging company S&T Project Meats and Ranch House Meats was hit with a recall of its jerky products recently, it led to a discussion with Yellowstone County officials, according to the Billings Gazette. The company complains that it's unclear what it would need to do to solve the problem. It's an issue for meat processors around the state, apparently, as the Department of Livestock acknowledged.

A spokesperson for the DOL joined in a conference call with Yellowstone County commissioners on Thursday and admitted that processors across the state had reported conflicting advice from the agency. Some agency officials are “not singing from the same hymnal,” apparently.

Few details were available about the S&T Project Meats recall, as the company is appealing and no one's talking during pending litigation. We do know that it was a Class I recall, which indicates a health hazard. The basis of the recall appears to be that S&T was unable to provide records about its jerky cooking process, making it unclear to regulators whether that process was sufficient.

S&T says that it has received no complaints or reports of illness, and that its system is automated. One of the Yellowstone County commissioners said he has had meat butchered and cut at S&T and found its facilities “clean and immaculate.”

It's a major issue if companies don't know what missteps in their operations could lead to a costly recall — or what to do to fix the problem. As the owner of S&T Project Meats indicated, this could be considered a denial of due process.

The Yellowstone County Commission is involved, according to the chairman, because of the effect recalls like this have on local companies and the economy.

The spokesperson for the DOL said that he couldn't address the specifics of the S&T case, but he could say that the agency is having lawyers prepare a review of the appeal issues. They will make recommendations about the specific case, but the DOL is also working with processors around the state to find better ways to communicate and other ways to improve the program.

The DOL's Board of Livestock is set to address S&T's appeal on May 25.