Some of the free food provided to schools to serve to students at breakfast and lunch through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s commodity program undergoes more-rigorous testing than is required of private companies, but other foods in the program need more-stringent safety standards, a Government Accountability Office report published this month found.
For example, the commodity program won’t buy ground beef that tests positive for salmonella, while federal regulations for commercially available ground beef allow the presence of some salmonella. The requirements are stricter, program officials told the GAO, because the food will be served to very young children who are at a higher risk for complications from food-borne illnesses. But for raw chicken, there aren’t the same kinds of strict rules about pathogens that can make people sick.
The USDA provides 15 percent to 20 percent of the food served in school meals.
A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2011 edition of Education Week as Food Safety