A local school district has pulled beef from a California slaughter house from its menu after what U.S. officials are calling the nation's largest meat recall.Boyertown Area School District reports having set aside over one thousand pounds that may have originated with the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packaging Co., of Chino, Calif. after officials say the company failed to comply with the humane treatment and slaughter of animals potentially contributing to health risks with human consumption of the meat.

The announcement was made early last week following press releases from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in addition to the state department.

Boyertown Superintendent Harry Morgan said "a little over one thousand pounds" of the beef was sent to the district.

"We were told about two weeks ago that we should hold it," Morgan said. "So none of it was used at that point on. We just found out this week that it was recalled."

Oley Valley School District was not on the list released by the department and has received none of the recalled beef.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Chris Ryder said in a phone interview Monday the United States Department of Agriculture was planning on reimbursing school districts for the recalled food.

"The USDA will reimburse the state and the state will reimburse the schools," said Ryder. "We're sort of the go between the schools and the USDA. The schools will submit to us the total and we'll issue the checks for reimbursement to the schools."

The state department released a list last Tuesday of 196 Pennsylvania school districts that received recalled beef products through the National School Lunch Program.

On Sunday, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packaging Co., of Chino, Calif., voluntarily recalled 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef products, according to the state ag department.

The Department of Agriculture classified the recall as a "class two" recall, saying there is only a remote chance that ingesting the beef would effect an individual's health.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer issued a response to the allegations made against the California packaging company on Sunday.

"USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has evidence that Hallmark/Westland did not consistently contact the FSIS public health veterinarian in situations in which cattle became non-ambulatory after passing ante-mortem inspection, which is not compliant with FSIS regulations," Schafer said. "Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection FSIS has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall."

The Food Safety and Inspection Service is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, among other food products, is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged.

"Pennsylvania schools may have received products affected by the recall, so schools should be checking their supplies and following the recall instructions if they have the products," said state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff in the release. "While there is very low risk to human health in this recall, it is important for all of the affected products to be separated from other foods and destroyed as a precaution."

In the release, the department called the recall "the nation's largest beef recall."

Wolff advised school districts not on the list to check their inventories if they purchased food independently.

The Department of Agriculture food safety inspectors will check for recall compliance as they inspect schools in the coming weeks.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the FSIS issued a notice of suspension based on Hallmark/Westland's failure to maintain and implement controls to prevent the inhumane handling and slaughter of animals at the facility required by the FSIS regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

For more information on the recall, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.

Contact editor Matthew Reichl at 610-367-6041, ext. 240 or mreichl@berksmontnews.com.

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