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Published September 24, 2009, 04:02 PM

Suit: Meatpacker used 'downer' cows for 4 years

Recent filings in a federal lawsuit claim that a California meatpacking plant that supplied the nation's school lunch program slaughtered sick cows for nearly four years, and hid it from U.S. officials.

By: Associated Press,

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Recent filings in a federal lawsuit claim that a California meatpacking plant that supplied the nation's school lunch program slaughtered sick cows for nearly four years, and hid it from U.S. officials.

The amended complaint in U.S. District Court in Riverside is part of a lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed earlier this year against Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino. The government is seeking unspecified damages from the company, which is now closed.

The lawsuit lists Donald Hallmark as a company partner, but he told The Associated Press on Thursday that he retired six years ago and has no comment.

The government recalled 143 million pounds of beef in 2008 after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing "downer" cows that were too sick to stand being dragged with chains and rammed with a forklift.

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