School Lunch Safety First
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
March 4, 2003
As children go off to school each day, parents may worry about whether the homework is done but rarely think about whether the school lunch is safe. Unfortunately, CSPI has identified about 100 food poisoning outbreaks linked to schools since 1990. These outbreaks prove that too many children have been sickened by school lunches contaminated with potentially life-threatening bacteria and viruses. Children are among those most vulnerable to serious illness or death from food poisoning.
We strongly support legislation introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Safe School Food Act of 2003, which would improve the safety of foods served to more than 27 million children in the National School Lunch and breakfast programs.
The Safe School Food Act will ensure that food purchased by individual schools may be held to the same safety standards that the federal government has for food donated to the program, such as pathogen testing for raw ground beef. The bill would codify existing practices on inspection of meat, poultry, and eggs and would strengthen inspection practices on seafood, fruits, and vegetables. The legislation also gives USDA authority to recall tainted foods that are in schools if the company responsible refuses to conduct a voluntary recall. Today, all recalls of tainted foods are voluntary or governed by state law.