The nightmare that is the school lunch program just keeps going from bad to worse, to downright disgusting.  Last month, I wrote about how schools unknowingly serve tainted food in their lunch programs due to poor communication between the government, food manufacturers, and individual schools.   But according to a recent report in the newspaper USA Today, the problem may be even worse than a simple miscommunication.

According to the paper, a recent recall of tainted beef did not include school lunches.  Last summer, health officials traced a dangerous strain of salmonella to ground beef made at Beef Packers Inc., a major supplier to the National School Lunch Program. 

"Four orders were produced for the school lunch program during that period, a USA TODAY investigation found. One tested positive for salmonella Newport, the strain that prompted the recall and can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting; that order was rejected by the government. Tests on the other three orders found no salmonella, and the beef was shipped from the plant before the recall was announced.  Because samples from the three orders of beef appeared salmonella-free, the meat made for schools was not included in the recall. But lawmakers and food safety experts say the three orders should have been rejected nonetheless." 
Even the food manufacturer disagreed with the government's decision, "Well, I can only say, thank God there were no outbreaks at schools related to any of these products. And that's not saying much," Mark Klein, a spokesman for Cargill which owns Beef Packers told the paper. 

Pretty bad, huh?  Well it gets worse.  Just days ago, USA Today released another report indicating that food served at fast food restaurants (the same food that many parents turn their nose up at) is held to higher health and safety standards than that served in schools.

"In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC."  
According to the paper, most fast food chains They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.And the limits that many of the chains set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.     Grossed out yet?  It get's even grosser...  
"For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called "spent hens" because they're past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don't pass muster with Colonel Sanders — KFC won't buy them — and they don't pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on "quality considerations."
USDA-purchased meat is donated to almost every school district in the country and served to 31 million students a day, 62% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price meals. President Obama noted earlier this year that, for many children, school lunches are "their most nutritious meal — sometimes their only meal — of the day."  So why oh why are we feeding our kids the dregs of the food supply for what for some may be their only meal?

And let me ask for a show of hands on how many parents let their kids eat the lunches served at schools.  My eldest is (thankfully) a pretty picky eater, so for the most part she is happy to pack.  But she loves the idea of buying lunch and she'll do so whenever she can. Her favorites?  Cheese pizza,  grilled cheese, and (spent hen) chicken nuggets. Yuck.

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