University has no beef with Westland/Hallmark

Though the nation’s largest beef recall kept hamburgers out of the cafeterias of many Hillsborough County schools, students and faculty at USF don’t have to ask “where’s the beef?” on campus.

Aramark, the University’s food service provider, does not buy products from the meat manufacturer who issued the recall, said Tom Williamson, USF dining services resident district manager.

“Aramark’s top priority is to ensure that the food we serve at USF is of the highest quality within the safest environment possible,” he said. “This recall does not affect students or customers on the USF campus.”

The Westland/Hallmark Meat Company recalled more than 143 million pounds of beef on Feb. 17, affecting all Westland/Hallmark beef produced within the past two years, according to the Wall Street Journal. This recall came after the Humane Society released an undercover video of workers using forklifts to move cows that had become immobile because of illness, the article said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that a federal inspector be notified of cattle in this condition so that he can complete a second inspection of them, which Westland/Hallmark did not do, said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer in an official statement.

Aramark manages the Bulls Den Cafe, Fresh Food Company, Burger King, Subway and On Top of the Palms, among other cafes and food shops on campus, and none of them have been affected by the recall.

The St, Petersburg Times reported that public K-12 schools in Hillsborough County had to throw out entire trays of frozen beef – part of the 37 million pounds of recalled beef received by schools across the country – though by Feb. 19, beef was back on the menu after school cafeterias separated the recalled meat from the safe goods. USA Today reported Monday that the recall has extended to canned foods containing beef purchased from Westland/Hallmark.

So far, a list of the canned food manufacturers who use Westland/Hallmark beef has not been provided. Craig Henry, senior vice president of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, told USA Today that the best way for people to find out whether their canned foods contain recalled beef is to call the manufacturer directly and ask.

USDA violations and inhumane practices aside, one major reason for the recall was that immobile cattle tend to be at risk for carrying diseases, such as E. coli and bovine spongiform encephalopathy – also known as mad cow disease – according to the USDA. While the USDA reports that all cattle at Westland/Hallmark passed the initial ante-mortem inspection, proving that they don’t suffer from mad cow disease, the recall is an extra measure to ensure that they don’t develop it later and thus became immobile.

“It is extremely unlikely that these animals were at risk for BSE (mad cow disease) because of the multiple safeguards (we enforce),” Henry said in the statement. “However, this action is necessary because plant procedures violated USDA regulations.”

Though the consumption of recalled beef has a low likelihood of causing any sort of illness, USF senior dietician Kim May said students should seek medical help if they become ill after consuming beef – or any product, for that matter.

“This isn’t a recall because people have gotten sick – it’s more of a precautionary recall,” she said. “If they start experiencing nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea – especially bloody diarrhea – then they would want to visit Student Health Services or see an off-campus provider.”

For the most part, students weren’t very concerned about the recall.

“It’s funny that people only care about the conditions (at Westland/Hallmark) now that that video was released and the news is reporting about it,” nursing major Ashlie Scott said. “The recall isn’t surprising to me. I don’t think people realize how many companies have inhumane practices.”

Mathematics and economics major Tyson DiLorenzo said he had no hesitation about eating beef served on campus.

“In fact, I had a burger tonight for dinner (at Fresh Food Company),” he said. “The news reported that the recall doesn’t affect all schools, so I’m pretty sure it’s not an issue here. Otherwise, they’d be forced not to serve it.”

DiLorenzo’s logic falls in line with Aramark’s business practices.

“When an alert or recall is issued, we immediately stop using the recalled product and do not use it again until the product is proclaimed safe by the governing agency – FDA, USDA – and consumer confidence is restored,” Williamson said.

Because of the magnitude of the recall, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Westland/Hallmark will likely shut down permanently.

“I don’t see any way we could reopen,” Anthony Magidow, Westland/Hallmark general manager, told the Wall Street Journal. “If the USDA wants payment back, we’re dead meat. We’re done.”