Vilsack Ups Beef Standards for Schools: What about the rest of us?

Articles
July 12, 2010

Vilsack Ups Beef Standards for Schools: What about the rest of us?

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced stricter USDA standards for ground beef purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) intended for Federal food and nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunches Program (NSLP).

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced stricter USDA standards for ground beef purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) intended for Federal food and nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunches Program (NSLP). Were the standards previously not up to par? Apparently beef intended for different markets is subject to a range of tests and standards which are outlet specific. A December ‘09 USA Today expose outed the fact that ground beef purchased for the NSLP was much less rigorous, in terms of testing for dangerous pathogens such as E.coli, than major fast food chains and supermarkets. Shouldn’t all foods be subject to rigorous food safety and quality control inspections regardless of the intended consumer?
 
The National School Lunches Program, a federally assisted meal program, provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to eligible children. In 2008, NSLP provided meals to more than 30.5 million school children each day.

“It is one of my highest priorities to ensure that food provided to the National School Lunch Program and other nutrition programs is as safe and nutritious as possible,” Vilsack said. “The new standards guarantee our purchases are in line with major private-sector buyers of ground beef…”
 
The Lempert Report sees this as a call to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to step up ground beef specs as well as the other meat and poultry materials it oversees. The AMS currently has a zero tolerance policy for E. coli and Salmonella, but shouldn’t all meat and poultry products intended for consumption be subject to similar policy? As we’ve entered barbeque and burger season, let’s keep Americans safe and confident in our food supply.   
 
In addition to continuing a zero tolerance for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, the new AMS standards include: tightening microbiological testing protocols; tightening the microbiological upper specification and critical limits; increasing microbiological sampling frequency for finished products to every 15 minutes; and, instituting additional rejection criteria for source trimmings used to manufacture ground beef.  

For more visit the USDA site