NY Senator Seeks Testing Of Meat Used In Schools

Last week, we wrote that meats supplied to this country’s school lunch program were not being as actively tested for <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food poisoning as some meats used in fast food restaurants. Now, a senator involved with the National School Lunch Program just asked the government to improve its meat standards for schools nationwide, said USA Today.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Kirsten Gillbrand (Democrat-New York) asked for “a strict testing program” to be used for ground beef in school lunch programs similar to what is “used by industry leaders such as Jack in the Box and Costco,” quoted USA Today. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does set “special inspection and testing requirements” for school lunch meats, said USA Today; however, the paper’s recent investigation found that the requirements are lacking in comparison to mandates in place at an array of fast food restaurants and groceries.

According to USA Today previously, the USDA claims its meat, purchased and used for the National School Lunch Program “meets or exceeds standards in commercial products.” But, said USA Today, this really isn’t the case and fast food and convenience locations actually have much more stringent processes in place to look for food borne pathogens. As a matter-of-fact, USA Today found that these outlets test their ground beef an astounding five-to-10 times more frequently than the federal agency tests beef for America’s school children and have in place limits that are upwards of 10 times more strict than the USDA has for its school program beef.

Schools in this country have received millions of pounds of meat and chicken that do not meet food quality and safety standards that are in place for fast food restaurants.

USA Today just noted that not only do fast food chains have stricter limits in place for testing some bacteria in their hamburger, but school lunch meats can contain upwards of 10 times more so-called “indicator bacteria.” This bacteria suggests, when present at high levels, that some dangerous pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, exist in the food. “Our children deserve a testing program at least as good as the fast food chains,” Gillibrand wrote.

Gillibrand also asked the agency “to terminate contracts with any habitual violators of your food safety policies,” citing Beef Packers, a major school program meat supplier, reported USA Today. Beef Packers, said USA Today, has issued two recalls this year over meat that was contaminated with drug-resistant Salmonella. The government claimed none of the beef was provided to schools; however, USA Today revealed that nearly 450,000 pounds of Beef Packers beef produced within dates involved in one of the recalls.

We also wrote that the USA Today investigation found that the USDA has provided schools with thousands of tons of meat from older birds—“spent hens”—that are slated for compost or pet food. So-called spent hens are not permitted in KFC foods, nor does the Campbell Soup Company accept this poultry, and hasn’t for ten years, based on what it described as “quality considerations,” said USA Today.

USA Today looked at approximately 150,000 tests on beef bought for the school lunch program—the USDA buys over 100 million pounds of beef annually for the program—and found cases in which students were fed meats that would have been rejected by retailers and fast food establishments.

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