Schools Pull Beef from Lunch Lines in Wake of Massive Recall
More than 150 school districts around the country pulled beef from their cafeteria lines after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recalled more than 143 million pounds of beef. About 55 million pounds of the recalled meat had already been funneled into the National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition programs. Most of the meat has already been consumed.
The New York City public school system, America’s largest school system, pulled all hamburgers from its menus. School districts in at least 10 other states are no longer using ground beef from Hallmark Meat Packing Co. and its associated Westland Meat Co. until a federal investigation is complete. Last year alone, Westland Meat Co. sold more than 27 million pounds of beef for use in school lunch and other federally funded nutrition programs.
PCRM physicians and dietitians have been speaking to the media about the recall and the importance of offering meatless options through the National School Lunch Program. Meat-heavy diets are known contributors to heart disease, obesity, and some forms of cancer. The hamburgers and other high-fat, high-cholesterol meat products schoolchildren encounter every day in the lunch line pose a serious risk to their health.
The recall, which covers beef dating back to Feb. 1, 2006, was prompted by an undercover investigation at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino, Calif., that revealed slaughterhouse employees abusing sick and injured cows prior to slaughter. Meat from sick and injured cows may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli or salmonella—or even mad cow disease.
Two of the employees are facing criminal charges, and the plant has remained closed since the investigation broke at the end of January. The animal abuse occurred even though the USDA had a number of inspectors at the Chino plant.