Friday, February 22, 2008
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 21 -- More than a third of the 143 million pounds of California beef recalled this week went to school lunch programs, with at least 20 million pounds consumed, Agriculture Department officials said Thursday.
About 50 million pounds of the meat went to schools, said Eric Steiner, deputy administrator of special nutrition programs for the department's Food and Nutrition Service.
Of that amount, about 20 million pounds has been eaten, 15 million pounds is on hold at storage facilities and 15 million pounds is still being traced, he said.
USDA officials have said that the meat poses little or no hazard to consumers.
"Sitting here today, I cannot tell you how many locations the product has gone to," said Kenneth Peterson of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Our focus is identifying the locations and making sure the product is under control."
The USDA shut down Chino, Calif.-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. and issued the nation's largest beef recall after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video of workers kicking and shoving sick and crippled cows and forcing them to stand using electric prods, forklifts and water hoses.
The plant produces about a fifth of all the meat in the federal school lunch programs, said Bill Sessions, associate deputy administrator for livestock and seed programs with USDA's agriculture marketing service.
One of the workers accused of abusing the debilitated cattle in the video, Luis Sanchez, pleaded not guilty Thursday to three misdemeanors involving illegal movement of sick or injured cattle.