Sunday, January 15, 2012


Institutional food is the riskiest kind of food to eat. That unfortunately, also applies to school lunches served under the U.S. National Food Program, although they are supposed to be safer than is nursing home food. On a typical school day, close to 12 million children in the U.S. eat lunch (and sometimes breakfast) under this program. Yes, they may be getting nutritionally better food than otherwise, but what else are they getting?

Over the years, there have been some pretty bad outbreaks. Usually, any contamination involves viruses or bacteria - and in one large U.S. case that I know of, probably mold toxins (There's a write-up of this case in The Safe Food Handbook).

And, occasionally school lunches also contain those nasty "foreign materials" like bits of metal, glass, plastic and so on (also see next post).

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a recall of seasoned diced beef products by RSW Distributors, LLC, of Forest City, N.C. Apparently a conveyor belt broke during processing and bits of the belt ended up in the food. USDA/FSIS said they had to set aside the contaminated food (an inspector must have been on the premises, as required). But then, somehow or other, the food was shipped out after all to institutions for further distribution to schools in South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington as part of the USDA's National School Lunch Program.

Well, better bits of rubber than bits of glass or metal, but still..This is really sloppy. Nor is this the first time that this type of mistake with shipping has happened. I hope they caught all the food before it reached the school children. No injuries have been reported. Maybe the kids ate it and just thought the beef was tougher than usual!

To your good health,

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