Valley School Officials Pull Recalled Beef

February 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
In one valley school district alone, the recalled meat is close to a $20,000 loss.Nationwide, the USDA is recalling more than 140 million pounds of hamburger meat. It's a precaution only, no one has reported getting sick.

Visalia Unified has several thousand pounds of the recalled Westland meat. It's quarantined in several freezers.

School officials tell me they had to act fast once they heard the meat was placed on hold several weeks ago. Stacks of the recalled frozen beef won't be served in any Visalia lunch rooms.

Lynnelle Grumbles, Visalia Unified School District Nutritional Services, says "We were lucky that day we weren't serving beef so we didn't have to look at the menu immediately we were very lucky."

Visalia Unified officials put the meat aside after the USDA placed the ground beef on hold pending an investigation of Westland/Hallmark Meat Company.

"It's actually not very common for us to get a recall on a USDA commodity product so but there are specific procedures to follow of course we were very concerned about it," says Grumbles.

Thanks to a list of code numbers from the USDA, Grumbles was able to track down all the recalled beef within an hour. She says the recall has cost the school district almost $20,000.

"Then we've gone to other sources for fresh ground beef and of course we've had to pay for that whereas the USDA commodity product was free to us here in the district."

Grumbles says she hasn't received any reports of children getting sick from the beef. For now, the meat sits in freezers until the USDA tells officials how to get rid of it.

The school district says they received several phone calls from parents upset about the humane society's video.

Tulare, Fresno, Clovis and Madera Unified school districts are also affected by this meat recall. Visalia Unified officials say they should hear from the USDA on how to dispose of the meat within 10 days.

The recall was triggered when the humane society released graphic, under-cover video shot at a meat-packing plant in southern California.

It shows disturbing pictures of so-called downer cows, sick cows, being kicked, dragged, and even shoved with a forklift into the slaughterhouse.

School districts in three dozen states across the country are now scrambling to get rid of the recalled beef.

Consumer advocates criticize the USDA for not catching the violations and congress is now calling for hearings into the inspection process.

Catherine Smith Dewall, Center for Science in the Public Interest, says "It's clear that USDA inspectors who should have been preventing this and protecting us weren't there and weren't doing their job."

While no one has reported getting sick, the recall does raise serious questions about the safety of the food supply.

For more information on the recall visit www.usda.gov.


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