Hanford plant recalls hundreds of pounds of meat that may contain plastic

September 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A federal investigation is underway to determine how pieces of plastic got into hamburger used in the school lunch program.

The meat came from Central Valley Meat Packers in Hanford. The recall was for 58,000 pounds of ground beef shipped out on April first. It was destined for school lunch programs in California, Texas, Montana and Arkansas. But a tiny amount, less than 200 pounds actually ended up in California schools.

Investigators with the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service ordered the recalls of 58,000 pounds of ground beef that came out of the Hanford plant on April 1.

Plastic particles were discovered in samples of the beef. The government says those particles pose a threat to human health.

In a statement, Central Valley Meat President Brian Coelho acknowledged that small pieces of plastic were found in some packages of ground beef he added, the company is working diligently to identify and address the source of the problem.

Fresno State animal science Professor Randy Berry works closely with the meat packing industry and believes the source was likely plastic used to line the bins of beef trimming used in hamburger.

"There's a liner inside that bin when they bump these bins into the grinder. This is a case where a little bit, I don't know how much, got into the grinder."

Federal investigators say the plastic particles were about 2 millimeters in diameter, or the size of a BB. From Hanford the meat was shipped to Gold Star distributing in Ontario, California. But Gold Star says only four boxes, or about 160 pounds of beef went to California schools. They have narrowed that down to one of ten school districts in Southern California. So far none have reported having the beef. Investigations are underway in the three other states.

Berry believes consumers should not be alarmed.

"You know the recalls are there, they are designed to protect consumers so consumers should be more comfortable that these things are in place to protect them."

Because of this recall the government has suspended Central Valley Meats right to sell to the school lunch program. The company went through a one month ban on school sales last year after an animal rights group released undercover video showing what appeared to be mistreatment of animals at the slaughterhouse.

The company provides more than one million pounds of beef each year to the school lunch program.


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