Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mystery midcoast meat men?

How I missed this story when it broke back in late June, I'll never know. And who knew this was enough of a problem to prompt a tri-state law enforcement coordination effort? By the way, great headline, Bangor Daily News!  I figured it deserved a custom illustration, do enjoy.
Police say be wary of rogue meat sellers
Unscrupulous peddlers turn up during summer

6/30/10 08:27 pm Updated: 7/1/10 09:26 am
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Police Department is warning midcoast residents to turn away unauthorized door-to-door meat salespeople this summer.

“Every year we get complaints of people selling meat out of the backs of their trucks,” said Rockland Deputy Chief Wally Tower. There have been no specific complaints yet this year, but Tower emphasized that “a lot of these people are convicted felons.”

In an effort to get a handle on the scope of the problem, police agencies across Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have been sharing information on the issue, Tower said. In Massachusetts, there have been cases in which the meat sellers stole purses from houses, he said.

“That seems to be a common [mode of operation]. Once they are in the house, they steal,” he said, citing law enforcement information bulletins. Tower did not cite any recent theft cases in Maine related to meat sellers.

Regardless of that, Rockland police advise people to shut their doors to the salespeople and call police immediately.

“The trucks are marked,” Tower said. “The ones in Rockland are beat-up pickup trucks with placards on the side.” He said the trucks typically have freezers in the back.

The Better Business Bureau also advised against purchasing from unlicensed salesmen. According to the bureau, door-to-door meat salesmen tend to start making their rounds in the summer.

The bureau receives complaints against these sorts of companies — some in Maine — including health concerns about the meat.
Maine’s Department of Agriculture licenses some vendors to sell meats out of their trucks. The Department of Agriculture’s Dr. Henrietta Beaufait advised anyone purchasing meat from a door-to-door salesperson to ask to see the vendor’s license and then make sure it is current and the license plate number on the license matches the vendor’s car.

She said customers also should check the boxes of meat, which should be cold. Every box should be labeled with safe handling instructions, a net weight, the company name that cut the meat, and a USDA certification sticker with a number inside it.
She said problems can arise when unlicensed people start selling meat.
Rockland resident Andrew Williams said a meat salesman approached him about six months ago. The salesman got out of his white pickup truck, which had a freezer in the back, and offered him a box of T-bone steaks and Angus beef burgers for about $56.

“It was the best meat I’ve had in a long time. It was weird, it was better meat than I get at any grocery store,” Williams said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I don’t know where the meat came from, but I didn’t get sick after eating it.”

Williams described the salesperson as a “shifty guy” who didn’t offer his name, nor did he give Williams a receipt. Nonetheless, he bought the meat, which he said was a good deal.

People with questions about purchasing meat can call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854. Rockland police ask anyone who encounters one of these salespeople to call the department immediately at 594-0316.

[Full article here: http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/147584.html]
I think we can safely file this under the "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm" category.

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