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Recalled beef ends up in eight local school districts

Eight Jackson County school districts received some the 143 million pounds of beef that were recalled in late January because of a meat processor's alleged abuse and slaughter of sick cattle, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported.

Ashland, Butte Falls, Central Point, Eagle Point, Medford, Phoenix-Talent and Rogue River school districts and St. Mary's School in Medford were recipients of the recalled beef processed by the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. in Southern California.

The Jackson County districts were included in a nationwide list of schools that received the beef released by the USDA earlier in the week.

There have been no reports of health problems associated with the recalled beef, the largest recall in U.S. history.

Nearly 200,000 pounds of the beef distributed to schools has been destroyed in Oregon since Feb. 20, according to the Oregon Department of Education. In Jackson County, about 10,300 pounds, including about 5,400 pounds in the Medford district, were destroyed.

It was unclear Friday when the districts received the meat or whether students ate any of it.

Jeff Ashmun, senior general manager for Sodexho USA providing food services to the Medford, Phoenix-Talent and Ashland districts, did not immediately return a phone call Friday seeking comment.

The beef was recalled after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing workers abuse and slaughter sick and injured cows at the packing company in Chino, Calif.

Federal regulations call for keeping sick and injured cattle out of the food supply. They may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease since they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.

Hallmark/Westland voluntarily suspended operations after the video was released. The president of the company, Steve Mendell, recently indicated that the company will probably not reopen, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On the Web: www.fns.usda.gov/fns/safety/Hallmark-Westland_byState.pdf

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.