Tainted beef in Richmond County schools

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, February 18, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The USDA says it's the largest beef recall in U.S. history, and some of the products were found in Richmond County schools.

The recall includes 143 million pounds of beef products.

"This is why you have to make sure that the food is under the right conditions. And that it goes through inspection," said Josephine Mack, director of the Richmond County BOE School Nutrition Program.

And inspection is exactly what the problem is.

The USDA says the Hallmark/Westland meatpacking company slaughtered cattle that should have been more closely inspected.

These cattle, called "downer cows," are cows that can't walk.

The USDA almost never lets them into the food supply, as a precaution against mad cow disease.

However, they say there is only a remote probability the beef could cause harmful health effects because the cows had gone through some inspection.

"To me, if something had been wrong with it, we would've had some persons to have become ill from it. That has not happened," Mack said.

About 37 million pounds ended up in schools and similar nutrition programs around the country.

"We have to do what's best for our children. Our children are first. That's what it's all about," said Mack.

She says they have pulled about 7,200 pounds of meatballs that were to be used for subs. She says only about five percent of the beef in the meatballs was from that company.

"Whether it's tainted or not, this is a directive they've asked us to do so we have to carry out the proper procedures," she said.

The recall dates back to two years ago, so the USDA believes most of it has already been eaten.

The Georgia Department of Education says there are no reports of any illnesses.

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