Saint Paul Public Schools takes steps regarding USDA-supplied beef
Thursday, January 31, 2008 4:24 PM

Media Release           
Office of Community Relations
Contact: Howie Padilla - (651) 767-8104
January 31, 2008

Saint Paul, Minn – The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) notified school superintendents on Wednesday that a hold was to be placed on beef products from the Westland Hallmark Meat Company as directed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In light of the notification, Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) administration immediately removed ground beef from the district’s Thursday menus.

The move is precautionary as school officials work with the USDA and MDE to determine the district’s next steps.

SPPS received a 40,000-pound shipment of beef this fall from the USDA that was supplied by the Westland Hallmark Meat Company. About 17,000 pounds of that shipment has been used in menu items with no reports of food-borne illnesses linked to the ground beef. The USDA has strict standards for its suppliers. As is the case with school districts nationwide, SPPS relies on the USDA to ensure the quality and safety of the meat it provides.

“Because of our inventory management, food safety and recall procedures, we were able to quickly identify all of the beef linked to the investigation,” said Director of Nutrition and Commercial Services Jean Ronnei. “Food safety is the backbone of what our nutrition services staff members do so, obviously, we are taking this matter seriously.”

SPPS nutrition services also uses other providers for ground beef. Only beef from these suppliers will be used beginning Friday until USDA provides more guidance.

“While there are no indications of any dangers connected to the beef from the USDA, the district does not want to serve product from the USDA that does not meet its stringent standards,” said Chief Operations Officer Hitesh Haria. “Until we receive further guidance from the USDA, we won’t be serving the remainder of the ground beef linked to that supplier.”