Four Democratic members of Congress last week called for the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate the safety of meat in the National School Lunch Program.
The request, from Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and others, comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has suspended the contract of a major supplier of meat for school lunches. The Hallmark/Westland Meat Co., based in Chino, Calif., has been accused of shipping meat from disabled cows. Such meat may pose a higher risk for E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria.
The USDA launched an investigation last month, and alerted school districts to the problem. Since the Jan. 31 announcement, several states have barred the company’s products from schools, including Idaho, Iowa, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington state.
Steve Mendell, the company’s president, said in a letter posted on its Web site that the company was cooperating with USDA investigators and was conducting its own inquiry.
Over the past five years, Hallmark/Westland has sold about 100 million pounds of beef for federal food and nutrition programs, including the school lunch program. It is unclear how much of that product made it into schools, said Angela Harless, a spokeswoman for the USDA.
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2008 edition of Education Week