Westland beef banned from Ca. schools

February 1, 2008 12:14:51 AM PST
California schools will no longer use beef from a slaughterhouse where workers were caught abusing sick cattle.

The images of a sick cow being forced to its feet before slaughter are causing a wave of swift action across government lines.

The Westland Meat Company in Chino is accused of slaughtering sick or 'downer' cows for food -- which is illegal.

Westland is a major supplier of beef at schools nationwide, including California.

The California Department of Education e-mailed an alert to more than a thousand school districts late Thursday, advising they stop using Westland meat, as well as beef products from unknown sources.

"I know a lot of school districts that have just taken all beef products off the menu," said nutritional services director Phyllis Bramson.

Meatballs and taco meat served in cafeterias could also be tainted, depending on where the beef came from.

According to the state superintendent of schools, the suspension order is aggressive, but necessary.

"I want to err on the side of being cautious, and so when there's an allegation that's brought before us, we take it very seriously and the bottom line is we're going to do everything we can do to protect the health and safety of our students," said State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell.

Westland's president said: "We are shocked, saddened, and sickened by what we have seen today."

But the publishers for Consumer Reports magazine say, none of this comes as a surprise.

"With so many fewer inspections going on by USDA, there has to be downer cows in the food supply so we're very concerned about it," said Elisa Odabashian from Consumers Union.

At Westland, an inspector checked cows twice a day.

The company, meantime, has suspended all operations until the USDA's investigation is complete.