Massive recall affects schools nationwideMonday, March 10, 2008 By Dash Turner
In early February, the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company of Chino, California recalled about 143 million pounds of beef, becoming the largest meat recall in history. School districts nationwide used the meat in their cafeterias, causing widespread panic in students and staff members alike. PV’s cafeteria manager, Teri Molina, says the recall directly affected the Chico Unified School District. “We have just been informed not to use any meat until further notice [as of February 22],” said Molina. Elementary, junior high and high schools across the country used the recalled beef supplied to schools, but PV was not one of them. About 50 million pounds of the 143 million pounds of beef recalled were sent to school districts. Students and faculty consumed approximately 20 million pounds of the beef, and any illness caused by the recalled meat has not been reported. The USDA noted that the chance of someone becoming infected by an illness caused by recalled meat remains quite slim. Mad-cow disease and E. Coli are the two major threats to health that could be caused by recalled meat. The former disease remains widely known because of the infection of British meat that occurred several years ago. Neither disease currently presents a threat to America’s health through the recall. There seem to be many questions as to why the meat was recalled in the first place. According to the USDA, an employee of the facility recorded employees at the Hallmark/Westland slaughterhouse abusing cattle that were unable to walk into the “kill pens” on their own. Downed cows were lifted and moved around on forklifts, as well as shot at with high power water hoses and prodded with electric prods in attempts to get the cows into the “kill pens.” According to the USDA, cows unable to walk into the kill pens on their own should not be processed and given to people to eat. “It was a terrible thing to have happen,” said Molina. Meat and other food recalls do not seem altogether uncommon. Over twenty meat recalls occurred last year, including a recall of over 20 million pounds of meat. Two of the nation’s largest fast-food companies, Jack-in-the-Box and In-n-Out, announced they served the recalled meat in the past but no longer provide the meat to customers. The USDA requires the beef to be destroyed, and several school districts across the nation announced plans to bury it. Many people question the USDA’s efficiency in making sure all food processing facilities are clean and the food provided by them is clean and safe to eat. “I mean, it’s nice that they’re concerned about our safety [now], but they are supposed to have safety measures to protect us [from this],” said freshman Jordan Wiley. Some PV students are frightened by recalls. Senior Helena Beaver says she is one of them, and she does not expect the frequent recalls to stop any time soon. “[Food recalls] will most definitely continue to happen, as long as people aren’t aware of [them],” said Beaver. Many PV students remain unaware of the recall, although a large amount of students eat beef. “We serve about 150 students on any given day that we are serving hamburgers,” said Molina. Students that already had heard about the recall did not seem phased by the ordeal. Even when asked about his knowledge of the threats posed by the beef, Jennings stated that anyone who is concerned about the recall is a wuss and that no one will get E. Coli or Mad-cow Disease. Others, like sophomore Elaine Jennings, seemed more concerned about the recall. “It’s a big issue, one that I need to be concerned about. It’s a very, very serious issue that everyone should be concerned about,” said Jennings. Many of the students who eat PV-provided lunches avoid the beef and head for the other dishes available. Neither freshman Bao Xiong nor freshman Alyssa Marler ever eat the beef, but seemed frightened by the massive recall. “I am [scared] for other people,” said Marler. “It is kind of really gross,” said Xiong. The effects of the recalled beef shall remain unknown for the time being, due to the time it takes for Mad-cow disease to take full effect in humans. We do know now, though, that the USDA needs to really step up its game in assuring that the food we eat remains safe to eat. Although PV has not been one of the affected schools, in case you have eaten afflicted beef, do not worry. The likelihood of a disease popping up from this seems quite slim, given the fact that not even a single cow was proven to have a transferable disease.