Washington Some of the 27 million pounds of meat linked to a listeria outbreak ended up in the federal lunch program, the Agriculture Department said Thursday.
The department purchased nearly 1.8 million pounds of Wampler Foods' turkey meat for distribution to schools and other agencies. Wampler is recalling its ready-to-eat chicken and turkey meats produced since May because its plant tested positive for listeria.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in a statement that the agency was investigating where the recalled meat was distributed.
"Our top priority at USDA is the protection of public health and we must continue to ensure strong prevention and enforcement programs are in place to best protect consumers," Veneman said.
No illnesses have been reported by schools, but activists and watchdog groups were angry when they learned the meat was in the lunch program.
Food safety officials should have checked to see if the meat was delivered to schools as soon as they knew the meat contained listeria, said Donna Rosenbaum, spokeswoman for Safe Tables Our Priority.
Listeria is a bacterium that can cause severe illness or death. Children are among those most vulnerable to the infection.
|For more informationConsumers with questions about the recall may contact the company's consumer information recall hotline at (877) 260-7110.|
Parents trust schools to serve their children food that has been USDA-inspected and is safe to eat, Rosenbaum said at a news conference. The agency should announce which schools are affected, she said.
"To not have that information going out to the states, I think, is almost criminal," Rosenbaum said.
Alisa Harrison, a department spokeswoman, said schools are notified any time recalls are issued.