Richmond pupils ate recalled beef

Beef pulled as part of a national recall was served to Richmond County pupils, although no one is believed to have become ill.

 

The beef was served in meatball subs on five occasions, Director of School Nutrition Josephine Mack said Monday, but lunchrooms set it aside as soon as the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a hold on the meat.

About 240 cases of meatballs remain, she said. She was unsure how much had been served or how many pupils had eaten them.

On Sunday, the USDA recalled 143 million pounds of beef that came from a Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. plant in California, where an advocacy group filmed abuse of "downer cattle." Beef was sold to schools as part of the National School Lunch Program. In Georgia, 37 school systems bought products containing the recalled beef, according to the Department of Education.

The risk to schoolchildren, however, is "very, very low," said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the Department of Education. The ongoing investigation has found no tainted meat in Georgia.

"It's important to note, and we need to stress this, the chances of there being problems are very, very low," Mr. Tofig said, adding that there is no chance of meat tainted with "mad cow" disease.

There have been no patterns of illness found in school lunchrooms, he said.

As a Class II recall, there is only a "remote" risk associated with the meat, according to the USDA, which issued a statement.

"I am dismayed at the in-humane handling of cattle that has resulted in the violation of food safety regulations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company," Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said in the statement.

The Department of Education notified school systems Monday about how to properly destroy the recalled beef.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.