COVINGTON - A Newton County School System official said Wednesday that its nutrition department has destroyed all of the recalled beef, but more cases of the questionable meat may need to be destroyed later.
Jan Loomans, director of School Nutrition for NCSS, said her department destroyed 26 unopened cases that contained the lot numbers that were recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after an investigation showed a California slaughterhouse, Hallmark/Westland Meat Company, allegedly did not correctly inspect its cattle. Officials said approximately 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school lunch programs.
"It's been pretty hectic," Loomans said about the situation, which affected NCSS, along with 36 other school systems in Georgia and many others across the United States.
She said she had to call in each Newton County Schools' lunchroom manager to work this week, since NCSS was taking its winter break, to inspect their stock and pull out the recalled products.
She and another employee later took the packages to a fenced-in area and ripped open the plastic bags that contained the meat, doused them in bleach and put them in a Dumpster that also was in a fenced-in area.
Loomans said regulations required the school system to open the bags and cover them in bleach, but she wanted to "go the extra step" and keep it in a fenced-in area.
"We wanted to make sure the Dumpster was secure if it wasn't picked up the same day," she said. "We even made sure we knew when the dumpster was picked up."
Each school system with recalled products had to follow certain protocols in order to be refunded for the lost meat and the cost of destroying the packages.
They destroyed 26 unopened 30-pound cases and one 20-pound partial case; each case costing about $17, Loomans said.
She said the school system will be reimbursed for the total cost of destroying the cases, as well as be given a credit on its account to order replacement food, which she has already ordered.
"We had to destroy them and file the paperwork by (today), and we've already done that (on Wednesday)," she said.
The cases, which could have been sent to any of the county's 20 schools, contained unseasoned, cooked beef crumbles, which can be used for lasagna, spaghetti, tacos and nachos, she said.
Loomans said the school system still has 84 cases that could be from Westland but do not contain the lot numbers that the USDA recalled.
"We're not using those until we know they have been released," she said. "The Georgia Department of Education is telling me there could be an additional recall. We want to be extra cautious."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@ newtoncitizen.com.