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Unsuspecting school kids fed tainted beef – DOE confirms ‘unfit’ meat was served

By Michèle De Meglio

Brooklyn public school students consumed beef the federal government deemed “unfit for human food.” Prior to learning that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was to recall 143 million pounds of meat because sick cows were slaughtered, the city Department of Education (DOE) served the beef in school lunches. “Some of the beef was used,” explained DOE spokesperson Margie Feinberg. Concerns have been raised about the quality of the meat because sick cows, called downers, can carry illnesses and bacteria. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said, “Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection, FSIS [the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service] has determined them to be unfit for human food.” The USDA asserted that the potential for illness among those who ate the meat is slim. “We implement a series of safeguards to protect against food-borne disease,” Schafer explained. “It is extremely unlikely that these animals were at risk for BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which is also known as mad cow disease] because of the multiple safeguards.” Feinberg said, “The USDA is calling this a Class II recall, which means there is a remote possibility of adverse effects.” A Class I recall is more serious and involves the presence of E. coli, which can cause health problems. Feinberg noted, “There have been no reports of adverse effects” from public school students who consumed the meat before the recall. The DOE is now “destroying” all remaining beef from the slaughterhouse that supplied the meat. New York City public schools stopped serving beef earlier this month. “On February 4, when we heard about a possible announcement, we took it upon ourselves to stop providing hamburgers as a precaution,” Feinberg said. But if the DOE was aware of concerns about the beef, parents wonder why they weren’t informed. “I think that they need to absolutely make sure that all the parents are aware,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Carmen Colon, who has three children in city schools. “Would I go as far as putting a letter in the mail? I would because we don’t know who got sick because of this. We don’t know who stayed home because of a stomach flu.” Francis Byrd, whose son is in the fourth grade at P.S. 282 in Park Slope, said the DOE likely kept the information private to avoid creating a panic. “They probably needed to wait until the [USDA’s] announcement was made,” he said. Feinberg explained, “The DOE was never notified officially until this week.”

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