HARTINGTON — Several schools in Cedar County have been affected by the U.S. government decision to recall 143 million pounds of meat that may be unsafe.
The meat came to the schools through the state of Nebraska as a commodity product.
Nebraska schools and day cares got about 240,000 pounds of the California-processed ground beef that’s part of the biggest beef recall in history, a Nebraska official says.
No illnesses have been reported.
Hartington Public School has 60 pounds of ground beef, seven cases of Salisbury steaks and some meat balls that will need to be disposed of, according to Business Manager Julie Schrieber.
The first letter, which was received Feb 5 asked the school to hold the food until further notice, according to Schrieber.
A second letter has now been received with directions for disposing of the meat.
“The letter has specific instructions which we will follow,” said Schrieber. “A witness will watch the Food Director while it is being done.”
Schrieber said the school will be reimbursed for the meat.
Laurel-Concord School has six cases of the meat, which will need to be disposed of.
“We were told to pour bleach over it and trash it,” said Supt. Dan Hoesing.
Hoesing said the school has had other recalls before.
“If you have something recalled at your grocery store – we have them also,” he said.
According to Craig Frerichs, Principal at Coleridge Community School and Wynot Principal Rich Higgins, neither school has any meat on hand that was recalled.
Undercover video taken at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, Calif., shows workers shocking, kicking and shoving debilitated cattle with forklifts, prompting the U.S. government to pull 143 million pounds of the company’s beef.
Federal guidelines say an inspector must review sick or injured animals, called “downer’’ cattle, before they can be slaughtered.
Such cattle are kept out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease since they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.
The recall affects beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006. Agriculture officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten.
“We don’t know how much product is out there right now. We don’t think there is a health hazard, but we do have to take this action,’’ said Dr. Richard Raymond, head of the USDA’s food safety programs, on Monday. He also is a former chief medical officer for Nebraska.
On Jan. 30 Nebraska officials told schools and day cares that got the meat from federal nutrition programs to hold the meat and not use it, said Julia West, who coordinates the Nebraska food distribution program for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
But by then, she said, much of it had already been eaten.
Brad Cabrera of Hastings Public Schools said the district got a ton and a half of the beef, but only small portion had been served to students.
“The information we have received from the USDA is that there is no health hazard with the food and that there have not been any harmful illnesses from the food,’’ Cabrera said.
Kris Spellman, food service director for the Grand Island Public Schools, said the district got more than several hundred pounds of the recalled products.
Robyn Wright, who runs food services Northwest Public Schools in Grand Island, said Northwest has 27 cases of breaded beef patties and five cases of beef meatballs that were being recalled.
Schools around the state will be destroying or dumping the beef instead of actually sending it back to California.
Spellman said bleach or ammonia will be poured over the beef to make it inedible, then it will be dumped in regular trash.
USDA spokesman Keith Williams said the recall was done primarily to revoke the USDA’s seal of inspection for the meat — not because of the risk of illness.
“Everybody’s going, ‘Oh, a recall, that means death, that means sickness.’ That’s a different kind of issue,’’ Williams said Monday. “This is a lower severity, where there would be a remote probability of sickness.’’