Wednesday, December 9, 2009

School Lunch FAIL

1 statements

I eat fast food, and I know it's pure crap. But thank the fucking lord that I never ate public school food - my mom always packed me a lunch.

Government schools have crappier food than the crap they serve at Taco Bell, and even KFC! Yes, KFC! Remind me why, again, do most people consider it a bad thing when public education funding is cut or public schools are shut down?

From USA Today:

USA TODAY examined about 150,000 tests on beef purchased by the AMS for the school lunch program. The agency buys more than 100 million pounds of beef a year for schools, and the vast majority of it would satisfy the standards of most commercial buyers. But USA TODAY also found cases in which the agency bought meat that retailers and fast-food chains would have rejected.

Like the AMS, many big commercial buyers reject meat that tests positive for salmonella or E. coli O157:H7. But many fast-food chains and premium retailers set tougher limits than the AMS on so-called indicator bacteria. Although not necessarily dangerous themselves, high levels of the bacteria can suggest an increased likelihood that meat may have pathogens that tests might miss.

From 2005 to this year, the AMS purchased six orders of ground beef that exceeded the limits some commercial buyers set for indicator bacteria. The meat came from five companies: Beef Packers of Fresno, which filled two of the orders; Skylark Meats of Omaha; Duerson Foods of Pleasant Prairie, Wis.; N'Genuity Enterprises of Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Palo Duro Meat Processing of Amarillo, Texas.

Palo Duro is the largest provider of ground beef to schools. Beef Packers is one of the most troubled; it has been suspended as an AMS supplier three times, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called this week for the plant to be closed temporarily in the wake of two recalls.

From late November 2008 through January this year, the AMS bought nearly 500,000 pounds of ground beef from Beef Packers and Skylark with unusually high levels of an indicator bacteria known as "generic E. coli." The organism is considered an indicator of whether potential contaminants from the intestines of cattle have gotten into slaughtered meat — a source of the far more dangerous E. coli O157:H7.

The indicator bacteria are measured in CFUs, or colony-forming units. Jack in the Box, which pioneered many of the safety standards now used across the fast-food industry, won't accept beef with generic E. coli levels of more than 100 CFUs per gram. The AMS, on the other hand, will buy beef for the school lunch program with generic E. coli counts of up to 1,000 CFUs per gram — 10 times the Jack in the Box limit.

"That's a significant difference," says Marsden, the professor and beef industry adviser.

The shipments of beef that the AMS bought a year ago had generic E. coli levels up to four times higher than what Jack in the Box would accept. "Most higher-end companies certainly would reject that," Marsden says. Those bacteria levels "would be a yellow light (that) something's not right."

E. coli isn't the only indicator bacteria that the AMS allows at higher levels. The government also accepts beef with more than double the limit set by many fast-food chains for total coliform, which is used to assess whether a beef producer is minimizing fecal contamination in its meat.

"We look at those (measures) to gauge how a supplier is doing," says David Theno, who developed the safety program at Jack in the Box before retiring last year. If shipments regularly exceed the company's limits on indicator bacteria, "we'd stop doing business with them," he says.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009