Hamburgers may be on the list of foods that many parents would like to see disappear from the school cafeteria, but that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon. However, parents who are concerned about the quality of the food their kids are being served at school will be happy to know that soon those burgers will at least be fit for human consumption.
Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t require ground beef purchased for the National School Lunch Program to conform to the same rigorous safety standards employed by most fast food chains. Whereas McDonald’s and Jack in the Box subject uncooked beef to rigorous microbiological testing every fifteen minutes or so, the ground beef served in schools undergoes far less scrutiny. In addition, the amount of bacteria deemed acceptable in your typical burger joint far is less than what is considered okay in schools.
But when classes begin again the fall, those who supply ground beef to schools will have new guidelines to follow when it comes to making sure the meat is safe. New standards announced last week by the USDA will require more stringent microbiological testing of uncooked meat headed for school cafeterias. This, says food safety consultant Dave Theno, should bring lunchroom burgers “right in line with contemporary standards.”
That’s good news about the beef, but what about the chicken? USA Today, who first uncovered the discrepancy between what the general population eats and what our our kids eat at school, reported back in December that much of the chicken served in schools comes from “spent hens.” These birds are past their prime and, if not for the school kids who unwittingly consume them, would be made into pet food or even compost. If KFC and Campbell’s won’t use them, why are they still on the menu at school?
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