USDA Removes Loopholes in School Lunch Meat Safety

The USDA has just announced plans to dramatically toughen meat safety standards for its school lunch program. From what I can tell, it’s more or less bringing the agency’s purchasing standards in line with those of Jack-in-the-Box and McDonald’s.

The credit for today’s announcement must surely go to the reporters behind a widely-read December 2009 USA Today article, which broke the story that food safety standards for the National School Lunch Program lagged far behind the standards already in place at several fast food giants.

I just finished chatting briefly with leading food safety attorney Bill Marler about today’s news. He agrees the USDA’s announcement is a significant step forward, but he’s got a couple concerns. First is that the USDA has apparently not taken new steps against non-0157 strains of E. coli. And second, there’s nothing in this announcement that deals with commodity beef that’s already in the system—beef that may remain frozen for months or even years before being served to kids. Link.