Monday, 17 June 2024

Two local school districts impacted by beef recall

LAKE COUNTY – Two local school districts are included in a newly released list of schools from around the country affected by a beef recall announced by federal officials last month.

Lakeport Unified School District and Konocti Unified School District are among hundreds of school districts across the United States named in the 226-page report, released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. Only five states – Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and New Hampshire – didn't have schools included in the report.

Board members from both districts Lake County News contacted late Thursday were not comfortable offering comment on the situation at this time because they had little information on the new report.

Lake County News also was unable to contact district administrators late Thursday. Konocti Unified's office was reported this week to be closed due to spring break.

The beef in question – 143 million pounds of it – was produced by the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in Chino between Feb. 1, 2006 and Feb 4. 2008, the USDA reported.

The report stated that not all school districts listed had any of the beef in their inventory when the recall began. Nor did the fact that a school district or “school food authority” was included on the list indicate that those schools, in fact, had received the recalled beef.

The report did not include information on quantities of beef school districts might have received.

The USDA reported that some of the recalled meat was part of the commodity beef the USDA supplies to the National School Lunch Program. In addition, the agency said that “schools may have purchased Hallmark/Westland beef commercially.”

USDA Food and Nutrition Service officials reported that, of the 143 million pounds of beef recalled, 50.3 million pounds were used for federal nutrition programs. Of that 50.3 million pounds, 19.6 million pounds were consumed and 15.2 million pounds were placed on hold, while several millions pounds more were being traced.

USDA reported that it notified all school districts to “hold and immediately discontinue use of any Hallmark/Westland commodity beef products in their inventory” on Jan. 30.

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service reported on Feb. 5 that it had, the day before, suspended inspection at Hallmark/Westland “based on the establishment's clear violation of Federal regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.” The company's operations also were suspended.

On Feb. 17 the USDA notified states that beef the company supplied was being recalled due to “regulatory noncompliance,” the agency explained.

That's because the the slaughterhouse was found to be using “downer” cattle – cows unable to stand or walk due to injury or illness – for slaughter, according to a report from the Humane Society of the United States.

Such animals are not to be slaughtered for food, according to the USDA, because of concerns that they may have a higher risk for certain diseases – ranging from Salmonella to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, known more commonly as mad cow disease.

Making the situation worse was that the slaughterhouse's employees were found to be guilty of using extremely cruel practices, including using forklifts and electric prods in forcing the animals to slaughter, according to the Humane Society. An undercover investigator with the group gathered videotape evidence of Westland/Hallmark's practices, which the group then turned over to San Bernardino County prosecutors.

Any products included in the recall are no longer in use at the schools, USDA reported, explaining that the agency worked with states to “quickly provide replacement commodity product” from approved sources.

No reports of illness related to the recalled ground beef have been made, according to USDA. The agency also “has given assurance that the health risk of consuming the affected beef is negligible,” and remains confident in the supply of food in the National School Lunch Program.

Beyond the recall, the packing company has bigger problems. On Feb. 15, the San Bernardino County District Attorney filed felony animal cruelty charges against two employees the company had terminated, according to a statement that same day by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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