Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the USDA has provided his office with an update regarding the scrap chicken that was supplied to the school lunch program in American Samoa. Samoa News and KHJ Radio brought this matter to the Congressman’s attention and asked for his assistance in providing the public with information about what went wrong.
“According to the USDA, the Western Regional Office Special Nutrition Program
contacted Mr. Levine Tupe, American Samoa Food Service Director, to inquire about the supposed wrongly labeled chicken delivered for use in the school lunch program,” Faleomavaega said. “Mr. Tupe confirmed that Region Pacific Sales, the chicken vendor for American Samoa school lunch program, in fact delivered 1000 cases or about 30,000 lbs. of ‘lesser’ chicken on March 7, 2006. Region Pacific Sales was to deliver Tyson chicken drumsticks, but instead delivered ‘lesser’ chicken unfit for human consumption.”
“The American Samoa Food Service also informed the USDA that it did not check the chicken product before issuing it to all school kitchens for school meals on March 21, 2006. Whether or not this is because ASG does not have the resources to properly inspect incoming food, I do not know,” Faleomavaega said. “But it is my hope that ASG will look into this question and make every effort to make sure that incoming food, like chicken, beef, and other meats, is safe for human consumption. As always, I stand ready to seek federal assistance if necessary and support ASG in its efforts.”
“Regarding the distribution of the scrap chicken, the USDA said that the food service received complaints from two kitchens stating that the chicken cases were not completely chicken drumsticks. On August 29, 2006, the food service warehouse for school lunch received the first cases of returned chicken drumsticks. The food service inspected the returned chicken and immediately contacted the vendor to inform them that the chicken delivered on March 27, did not meet the bid specifications. Additionally, Mr. Levine instructed the warehouse supervisor to take inventory of the remaining cases left in the warehouse freezer to return to the vendor for a refund.”
“The food service returned 401 cases and is expecting a refund of $11,308. However, Region Pacific Sales has referred the American Samoa request for a refund to their legal counsel. While I have asked the USDA to intervene and make sure American Samoa gets its refund, the USDA has informed my office that because the contract is between the American Samoa school lunch program and Regional Pacific Sales the USDA has no way to force a private company to pay a refund,” Faleomavaega said.
“Also, according to the USDA, some school kitchens disposed of 599 cases of ‘lesser’ chicken because it was bad but did not notify the food service office. According to the USDA, Mr. Levine acknowledged that there was a break in communication between the cooks, coordinators, and the food service office but Mr. Tupe has since met with food service staff to assess the areas of concern regarding the receiving of goods into the school warehouse to avoid this type of problem in the future.”
“In addition, Mr. Tupe has met with the American Samoa Chief Procurement Officer so they can improve their collaborative efforts. Regarding the inspection of the chicken by the USDA inspector at the Samoa port of entry, Region Pacific Sales buys domestically (U.S. mainland), and therefore, there was no reason for the USDA inspector to inspect domestic boxes of chicken.”
“ASG officials have also informed the USDA that this issue is singular and limited to this specific shipment of chicken, and it will most likely never happen again. Nevertheless, the USDA remains committed to working with ASG to improve all aspects of program management and I remain available to support their efforts,” Faleomavaega concluded.