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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Recalled beef pulled from city schools

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff

Beef served in New Haven public schools has been pulled, part of a nationwide recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from California slaughterhouse Westland Meat Co.
According to schools spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, New Haven received a “small amount of pressed beef product that had already been cooked and processed.”
Aramark Corp., which manages food services for city schools, pulled the beef in early February, Sullivan-DeCarlo said. While some of the meat was eaten, there have been no reports of illness. The meat had been tested for bacteria at the processing plant, she said.
The state Department of Education had asked school districts to confirm the safety of beef served in school lunches following the recall.
Further information on other Connecticut districts that may have been affected by the recall is expected today. Westland is one of the top beef suppliers to the National School Lunch Program. Officials estimate about 37 million pounds of the now recalled beef went to school programs.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, has joined federal legislators pushing for a national investigation into meat safety in public schools. The USDA ordered the recall Sunday based on Humane Society footage revealing Westland employees kicking, shocking and abusing “downer” cows too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Meat from non-ambulatory or “downer” cows presents a higher risk of E. coli and salmonella, and it is banned under federal law.
Federal officials have suspended operations at Westland, and two former employees were arrested Friday on animal cruelty charges.
In a joint letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, DeLauro, and U.S. Reps. George Miller, D-Calif,, Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, called for an independent government investigation into safety of meat in the National School Lunch Program.
Dominick Golia, director of food services in Ansonia, said he checked his beef Tuesday morning after returning from the holiday weekend. “I saw it on television and got all sorts of e-mail this morning and yesterday,” he said. Beef will remain on the menu for Ansonia students. “The beef is not affected, so there is nothing for us to do,” he said.
East Haven Food Service Manager Debora Spaziani said she pulled beef from the menu a few weeks ago after hearing initial reports of the problems at Westland, but has determined the schools’ supply is not affected by the recall.
Wallingford, Seymour, North Branford, Milford and Madison school administrators also reported they had checked their beef supplies and cleared them for use.
In Milford, Philip Russell, deputy superintendent of operations for the schools, said beef was pulled from school menus after news of cattle abuse first broke.
“As soon as we heard that, we suspended it,” he said. Russell said Tuesday he was still waiting on a report from the district’s food service director about Milford’s supply, but thought it might be best to err on the side of caution. “The best thing is to get rid of all the stuff to eliminate any concerns,” he said.
State Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy said the state is “asking (districts) to make sure they check” for the recalled beef.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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