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Recalled meat shows up in Roane County Schools

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

Meat associated with the largest beef recall in U.S. history ended up in Roane County Schools.

Linda Wilson, director of food services for the school system, said they received two cases of the beef back in the fall.

Those cases were quarantined and never served to students, Wilson said, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the school system in January the beef posed potential problems.

“It’s in one of our central freezers and the USDA — the government — will tell us whether somebody is going to pick it up or whether we’re just going to destroy it,” Wilson said. “Being that it’s such a small amount, two cases, they may just tell us to destroy it.”

The beef recall was sparked by an undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in California.

Hallmark/Westland was a major supplier to the National School Lunch Program.

Beef from the company was shipped to school districts throughout the United States.

“The case lays bare gross inadequacies in USDA’s current inspection program,” Humane Society president and CEO Wayne Pacelle told NBC News.

Video from the Humane Society investigation shows cows that were too sick to walk or stand — known as downer cattle — pushed with forklifts and shocked with electric prods before slaughter.

According to the USDA Web site, cattle that are unable to stand or walk when presented for pre-slaughter inspection are prohibited from slaughter for comsumption.

“I am dismayed at the inhumane handling of cattle that has resulted in the violation of food safety regulations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co.,” Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer was quoted in a statement posted on the USDA Web site.

“It is extremely unlikely that these animals were at risk for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) because of the multiple safeguards; how-ever, this action is necessary because plant procedures violated USDA regulations.”

The USDA initially placed beef from Hallmark/Westland on hold before deciding to issue the recall.

“Once they go through the process of an investigation, they can either continue the hold, release it or do a total recall, and that’s what hap-pened over the weekend,” Wilson said. “They took it off hold and put it on recall.”

Wilson said the school menu was not altered because of the recall.

The school system Web site still showed steak on the menu for Tuesday and hamburger on Thursday.

“It was just this one particular manufacturer, this one particular brand and things in Roane County are fine,” Wilson said.