Sunday, January 3, 2010
Protect Children from the USDA’s Unsafe School Lunches
Targeting: Tom Vilsack (Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Sponsored by: CREDO Action
Know what's less safe for our nation's children than fast-food? Their school lunch!
It's hard to believe, but hamburgers from McDonald's and Jack in the Box are safer than the meat that America's 31 million children are offered at our nation's schools.
Each year the USDA buys some 100 million pounds of beef for America's school lunch program -- but the USDA refuses to adopt common-sense practices to ensure that meat served to our children is safe.
A recent investigation by USA Today found that the meat sold to U.S. school cafeterias faces less testing and lower safety standards than the meat that's served in most fast-food restaurants -- outlets that aren't otherwise known for their health consciousness and are as cost-conscious as the most passionate deficit hawk.
That's right: McDonalds, KFC, and Jack in the Box test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more frequently than the USDA tests beef for U.S. school lunches! And these restaurants have for years refused to buy certain kinds of lower-quality meat and chicken which the USDA continues to accept.
Despite assurances of safety from Rayne Pegg, head of the Agricultural Marketing Services, the USDA agency responsible for school lunch meat purchases, scientists and experts agree that there is no excuse for the USDA's lax standards. Even the USDA used to agree! As far back as 2000, the USDA Secretary under Bill Clinton vowed to rectify this unacceptable policy. Then the Bush administration took office and Big Meat (AKA the meat industry) used its influence to kill any hope of reform. Until now.
Admirably, current Secretary Tom Vilsack has agreed to "an independent review" of USDA safety standards for school lunch meat. But that is not nearly enough. With tens of millions of pounds of contaminated meat recalled over the past two years, it's only a matter of time before these low standards lead to a school cafeteria outbreak and sickened children. The possibility is unacceptable.
Tell Secretary Tom Vilsack that our children need immediate, emergency action to make sure that the food they eat each day is the safest possible!