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Hall County schools to dispose of suspect beef

Plant in California targeted as site of potentially tainted meat

POSTED: March 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

GAINESVILLE -- Hall County schools now is feeling the effects of the nation's largest beef recall.

Pierre Foods, the district's beef provider, notified the system Thursday that it would have some beef under a U.S. Department of Agriculture Class II recall, "which is a remote possibility of adverse consequences," said Superintendent Will Schofield.

The school system stopped serving beef Thursday afternoon until it could find the targeted beef.
As of Friday morning, "we have identified all in-stock items and will destroy them as required by federal guidelines," district spokesman Gordon Higgins said.

"Our cafeteria menus have been adjusted, and we will remain in constant contact with government agencies and our suppliers regarding future updates."

Cookie Palmer, Hall schools' nutrition director, said, "We should be able to be back in the beef business by Monday."

Until now, 32 school systems around Georgia have been preparing to destroy thousands of pounds of meat after an undercover video showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts.

The USDA ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of beef from a southern California slaughterhouse that is the subject of an animal-abuse investigation.

The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that came from Chino, Calif.-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency said. The company provided meat to various federal programs.

"When the first hold came through, we surveyed every school to find out what they had in their freezers," Palmer said. "So when the expanded recall information came to us late (Thursday) afternoon, we were able to pretty well identify where there might be some of the beef on the recall."

Friday morning, a Pierre representative and one of the company's brokers visited one of the schools to confirm the find, Palmer said.

The reason Hall came into the picture is that the recall was expanded to include "any beef that could have come in contact with the beef from Westland," as had been the case with Pierre, she said.

"The part (of the recall) that was expanded ... was anything that might have been part of production at the lowest possible level," Palmer said, reading from a Pierre letter. "This includes any material that could have remotely come in contact with any piece of equipment."

Dana Tofig, spokesman for the state Department of Education, has said he expects school systems that follow the USDA guidelines to be reimbursed for the costs of destroying the meat.

In Georgia, 37 school systems are believed to have bought meat that came from Westland/Hallmark, Tofig said. Of those, 32 reported finding some of the meat in their storage rooms when the on-hold notice went out late last month, he said.

The beef was shipped to Georgia from October through January, records show.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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