Vallejo schools ban meat from company accused of animal abuse

The Vallejo Unified School District announced this morning that it has removed from school menus beef from the Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. after allegations surfaced about animal abuse of sick and downed cattle there last week.

District spokesman Jason Hodge said all beef products for use in the 16,000-student district were removed Thursday night. Hodge said the district wants parents to know their children will be safe.

The beef from Westland Meat Co. is provided to school lunch programs across the country. The United States Department of Agriculture placed an administrative hold last week on the company's beef products

produced between Jan. 1, 2007 and Jan. 30, 2008.

The company has been suspended indefinitely as a supplier to federal food and nutrition programs and the company will not produce or deliver any products currently under contract, according to the USDA.

The hold applies to fine ground beef 40, USFDA Code A608, sent to private and state distribution centers, MCI Foods and Rose and Shore Meat Inc.

The hold on beef bulk coarse, USDA Code A594, was sent to the following processors: Don Lee Farms; Pierre Foods; JTM Provisions, Inc.; Integrated and Advance Food Company.

The Humane Society of the United States Thursday released film of downed and nearly lifeless cows allegedly being subjected to repeated electric shocks, tail twisting, shackling and dragging, ramming with fork

lifts and high pressure water hosing in the mouth and nose to simulate drowning.

In a written statement Sunday, Steve Mendell, president of Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., said the company has taken “swift action regarding the two employees identified on the video and have already implemented aggressive measures to ensure all employees follow our humane handling policies and procedures.”

Mendell said the company is cooperating with the USDA's investigation and an outside consultant, a veterinarian, is independently reviewing the company's operations.

“He has told us in a written report that our records and programs are 'the best he has ever seen in any plant,''' Mendell said.

The company has voluntarily suspended its operations pending completion of the investigation, Mendell said.

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