FOOD SAFETY

Schools in Md., Va. Set Aside Recalled Beef

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

School lunchrooms across Maryland and Virginia received beef that has been recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, education officials confirmed yesterday.

Arlington schools sent a letter to parents yesterday, saying that it received approximately 50 cases of hamburger last February and that most was served as patties to students last spring. Six unused cases would be destroyed, it said.

"We are unaware of any problems resulting from consumption of the product," the letter said. "Hamburger patties currently being served in APS cafeterias have not been identified in this recall."

In issuing the recall this weekend of more than 140 million pounds of beef distributed over two years from the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., the Agriculture Department estimated that about 37 million pounds of the meat went to school lunch and other public nutrition programs. Almost all of it was likely to have been consumed and poses little or no hazard to consumers, officials said. The recall, the largest in the department's history, came after an investigation of the meat-packing plant revealed that some cows were slaughtered despite being too sick or weak to stand on their own.

The Maryland State Department of Education issued a news release yesterday saying that the "first concern is for the health and safety of students in Maryland public schools" and that there were no reports of individuals getting sick from the recalled beef. All of the meat distributed through the lunch program was pre-cooked, the release said.

Anne Arundel County schools spokesman Bob Mosier said the school system used recalled meat in about 30 cases of a macaroni dish and spaghetti sauce, which represents a minimal amount of the schools' daily food.

He added that the beef was put on hold Jan. 31, after officials received notification from the state Department of Education. "It's all marked and been kept separate in the freezers," Mosier said. Officials plan to destroy it.

Schools in Allegany, Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's and Baltimore counties and in Baltimore also received the beef.

The Virginia State Department of Education said it was waiting for a list of affected schools from the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

"We do know some districts have received the meat," said Charles Pyle, an Education Department spokesman.

The D.C. school system does not have any beef that matches the lot numbers of the recalled meat, said Mafara Hobson, a schools spokesman. But as a precaution, she said, the school system decided not to serve any beef until it can order meat from another vendor, a process that could take as long as two weeks.


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