State: NJ school districts got recalled beef

February 25, 2008 3:41:46 PM PST
Schools in nearly 160 New Jersey districts likely have tainted beef sitting in their freezers, state agriculture and education officials said Monday. Altogether, they said, New Jersey schools received about 168,000 pounds of meat from a California slaughterhouse - the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. - shut down in a probe of the largest U.S. beef recall ever.

A recall of 143 million pounds of the company's beef products was announced Feb. 17, nearly three weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended Westland's participation in federal food and nutrition programs amid an investigation of alleged cattle abuse.

In a teleconference Monday, New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles Kuperus said the meat products, distributed through the National School Lunch Program, reached New Jersey schools via three food processors.

The companies, identified as Pierre Foods of Ohio, Made-Rite Steak Co. of Pennsylvania, and Silver Springs Farm of Pennsylvania, processed meat from Westland bought through the USDA into menu items including cooked beef patties, meatballs, taco meat, beef barbecue nuggets and frozen minute steaks.

State officials said much of the meat was cooked and then frozen before arriving at schools.

"We've had no reports of young children getting sick," Kuperus told reporters.

The USDA had said there was only a remote possibility of people getting sick if they ate the tainted beef, which was distributed between February 2006 and this month.

"I'm on my seventh year here and I've never had something like this (happen) before," Kuperus said. "It's the Department of Agriculture's first and foremost priority to provide the schoolchildren of New Jersey with safe, nutritious foods."

Working with the processors, the department identified schools that received the tainted meat, notified them last week and told them to set it aside.

The department posted a list of school districts and some individual schools that received the meat on its Web site late Monday. The list includes 145 school districts, plus 13 additional regional, vocational or other individual schools. In addition, 14 parochial schools are listed, along with a child care program called Babyland Family Services Inc.

The schools have until Tuesday to report how much they have in their inventory, and then they will have to destroy it.

Schools that have more than 50 cases of the product must take it to a landfill, or have it incinerated or otherwise destroyed in the presence of a local health department representative or other official. Schools with smaller amounts can destroy the meat on site.

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List of affected school districts: www.nj.gov/agriculture

USDA recall information: www.usda.gov/actions

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