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Update on Concerns about Meat Products (UPDATED 2/15)

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Georgia Specific Questions: Dana Tofig, GaDOE Communications office, (404) 463-1487,     Information about Westland and the USDA investigation: Debbie Haston-Hilger, USDA, (404) 562-1810  February 13, 2008 -- State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox held a press conference today regarding concerns about meat products from a California slaughterhouse. Here is the latest information:   On January 31, the Georgia Department of Education’s (GaDOE) School Nutrition Program received an alert from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The alert said an advocacy group had filmed “downer cattle” at a slaughterhouse, Westland Meat Company in California. There is no indication at this point that this cattle was used in meat processing or that there was anything wrong with the cattle.    The GaDOE IMMEDIATELY notified our public school systems of the alert. The GaDOE also IMMEDIATELY began working with processing plants that use Westland meat in products that are sent to Georgia school systems. Over the next several days, GaDOE received information – including lot numbers – from three processing plants about products that may have contained meat from Westland.    As we have received this information, GaDOE has told school systems to pull products that have the identified lot numbers. So far, 30 school systems have said they have some of the identified products. USDA is continuing to investigate Westland and has told GaDOE they will have findings by February 19.    There is no evidence at this point that any of the meat sent to Georgia school systems was tainted. We will find out more information on February 19 from USDA, but until then we are using an abundance of caution. Also, we have received no reports of food-borne illness at our schools either.    As we get more information, we will notify our school systems and the public.    MORE INFORMATION  -  Superintendent Cox's 2/13 Press Conference  (Real Player required:  Download Real Player  - click on link in upper right hand corner)  -  Audio of Superintendent's Remarks   -  United States Department of Agriculture Press Release   - List of School Systems that have reported receiving products containing meat from Westland Meat Packing Co. These products have been pulled and are not being used. (As of February 15, 1 p.m.)  Atlanta City (added 2/15) Barrow County  Bartow County  Carroll County  Carrollton City  Cartersville City  Cherokee County  Clayton County  Cobb County  Coffee County  Dalton City  Decatur County  Dekalb County  Fannin County  Floyd County  Forsyth County  Fulton County  Gordon County  Grady County  Griffin-Spalding  Gwinnett County  Jackson County  Lamar County  Marion County  Murray County  Muscogee County  Newton County  Paulding County (added 2/14) Pickens County  Richmond County (added 2/15) Tift County Ware County (added 2/14)