That pesky newspaper, USA Today, has done it again. It’s latest exposÃ© on food safety points out that USDA rules for meat are more stringent for fast food than they are for school lunches and that fast food companies do a much better job of producing safe meat.
The reporters say, for example, that the schools use “old-hen” meat, whereas fast food places do not. But things are getting better. The USDA used to buy 30% of all the old-hen meat available, but now only buys 10%.
The article elicited an immediate response from the USDA. An offical wrote USA Today that USDA’s standards for meat sent to schools have been “extremely successful in protecting against food-borne pathogens…inspections and tests of that meat exceed those required for meat sold to the general public.” That, alas, is not what these articles suggest.
While Congress is dithering over the FDA’s rules for food safety, it ought to be looking at USDA’s also. At the moment, USDA has better rules than FDA but doesn’t always bother to enforce them.
Congress: get busy! Better yet, how about considering a complete overhaul and creating ONE food safety agency!
Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.
She is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism and What to Eat.
Her most recent book is Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, published by University of California Press in 2008.
You can read her Food Politics blog here:
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