Largest Beef Recall in U.S. History Affects Malibu Schools
• Local Menus Will Reflect State Directives during Inhumane Animal Treatment Review
BY NICOLE KLIEST
BY NICOLE KLIEST
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Sunday the recall of 143 million pounds of beef, the nation’s largest recall to date, from Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, a former meat supplier for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and other districts throughout California in the National School Lunch Program.
“We have received additional guidance from the state not to use the meat, however we are still awaiting guidance with what we are to do with the beef we have isolated,” said Orlando Griego, director of food and nutrition services for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. “We will not be serving beef products until we receive clearance from the state.”
“In the meantime we have been replacing meals that have beef in them with turkey items or chicken products. We are also still encouraging students to use the salad bar,” Griego added.
Just days before this historic recall, two Westland employees were charged with felony and misdemeanor counts by the San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos.
Employee Daniel Ugarte Navarro was charged with five felony counts under California’s anti-cruelty statue and three misdemeanor counts alleging the use of a mechanical device to move so-called “downer” cows—animals that are too ill or otherwise unable to walk on their own—into the chute that leads to the slaughterhouse kill box.
These felony charges could bring a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, $100,000 in fines, plus additional penalties on the misdemeanor charges.
The second employee, Jose Luis Sanchez, was charged with three misdemeanors involving downers and faces up to 18 months in jail and $3000 in fines if convicted.
According to the group’s spokespersons, never before in the knowledge of The Humane Society of the United States have slaughter plant workers faced charges of this nature.
“We applaud District Attorney Ramos for taking decisive action in bringing felony counts against people who abused animals in these heinous ways,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. “He knows that this sort of cruelty can never be tolerated, and because of his decision to prosecute, justice is being served in this case.”
The enormous beef recall came in response to an HSUS investigation documenting on film—that is difficult to watch—downer cows being severely mistreated at a Southern California slaughter plant. In addition to the cruelty issue, providing meat from downer cows can also pose a serious risk to human health.
“The plant HSUS investigated has been shut down indefinitely, its products have been recalled, and two of its employees are now facing criminal charges, with additional legal action certain to follow. Every slaughter plant in the nation should heed the messages sent by this investigation,” added Pacelle.
The HSUS is urging the USDA to take swift criminal and civil action due to the fact that Hallmark/ Westland shipped potentially dangerous ground beef to schools across the country as part of the National School Lunch Program.
The matter has spotlighted feed animal cruelty and health issues on the state and national level.
On Tuesday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement about the current situation.
“Protecting consumers, particularly children, from willful and deliberate violations of food safety laws is among the most important responsibilities of government,” said Schwarzenegger. “If these allegations are proven to be true and an isolated case, we expect full criminal prosecution.”
Some animal activists, however, are concerned this incident is the first inkling of widespread industry cruelty to feed animals that will require a major public outcry for redress.