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Ag Department To Announce New Recall Rule

Prodded by fallout from the nation's largest beef recall, the Agriculture Department expected to finalize plans Friday to make retailers' names public during some meat recalls.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Next time there's a meat recall, you may be able to find out if your local grocery store received any of the tainted meat.

Prodded by fallout from the nation's largest beef recall, the Agriculture Department was expected to finalize plans Friday to make retailers' names public during some meat recalls. That's something that now doesn't happen at all, except in California, which has its own law requiring such disclosure.

Consumer groups along with some lawmakers have been pushing for the change for years. But the final rule may not be as strong as they would like.

Facing opposition from industry to any disclosure, the Agriculture Department is expected to impose the requirement only in the case of so-called "Class I" recalls -- those which are considered to pose the greatest health hazard.

That means the rule wouldn't have applied to February's recall of 143 million pounds of beef by the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif. The Chino recall was categorized as "Class II" because authorities determined there was minimal risk to human health.

An Agriculture spokeswoman declined comment in advance of a news conference scheduled for midday Friday with Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer and Food Safety Undersecretary Richard Raymond. Schafer and Raymond have both said they were looking at limiting retailer disclosure to Class I recalls.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service that Raymond heads has been trying to finalize the rule for more than two years. The food industry considers retailer information proprietary and says it doesn't necessarily help consumers anyway because it can be outdated, incomplete or confusing.

The February recall brought new attention to the issue, and new pressure from lawmakers, who say consumers have the right to know if their store is selling tainted meat.

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