Ground beef servings grind to a halt at schools

  • Article by: PATRICE RELERFORD and TERRY COLLINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2008 - 11:52 PM

Area schools play it safe while a California firm that sent them meat is investigated by the Humane Society.

Beef: It's not what's for lunch. At least not for the next few days in some Minnesota schools.

Area schools pulled thousand of pounds of ground beef from their menus Thursday after the state Department of Education alerted school districts to stop using meat from a California company accused of animal cruelty earlier this week.

Randy Wanke, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said meat from the Westland Hallmark Meat Company was sent to distribution centers in Brooklyn Park, Maplewood, Newport and St. Michael and to the St. Paul School District.

St. Paul schools had already served almost half of a 40,000-pound shipment of ground beef from the Chino, Calif.-based company. It will not use the remaining meat from Westland and will switch to meat from other suppliers beginning today.

No reports of food-borne illnesses have been linked to the Westland meat. State officials will continue to track the company's shipments to Minnesota, Wanke said.

Other metro area school districts, including Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis and South Washington County, also scrambled to remove beef from their menus until further notice.

"We've got a hold on it until we can identify the product numbers," said Allison Bradford, Anoka-Hennepin's child nutrition director.

Minneapolis middle and high school students were scheduled to eat hamburgers today but will be served chicken patties instead, said Rosemary Dederichs, the district's nutrition services director.

The Humane Society of America released a video on Wednesday that shows workers at the Chino, Calif., plant kicking, shocking and prodding sick cows into a slaughterhouse.

Westland Hallmark Meat Co. delivered ground beef to schools in 36 states via a U.S. Department of Agriculture program between Oct. 26 and Nov. 5, 2007, the agency said.

Federal officials suspended the company from food and nutrition programs on Wednesday in light of the Humane Society's allegations.

Staff Writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.

prelerford@startribune.com

612-673-4395

tcollins@startribune.com

612-673-1790.

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