USDA finalizes ground beef standards for school lunches

July 2—The USDA announced that is has established new standards for ground beef purchased for Federal food and nutrition assistance programs, which include the National School Lunch Program.

"It is one of my highest priorities to ensure that food provided to the National School Lunch Program and other nutrition programs is as safe and nutritious as possible," Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, said in a press release. "The new standards guarantee our purchases are in line with major private-sector buyers of ground beef. We will continue to apply the best scientific knowledge to increase the safety across the board of our nutritional programs."

The new standards “tighten microbiological testing protocols, tighten the microbiological upper specification and critical limits, increase microbiological sampling frequency for finished products to every 15 minutes and institute additional rejection criteria for source trimmings used to manufacture AMS purchased ground beef.” The new standards also consider any vendor classified as having a long-term poor safety record as an ineligible vendor until a complete analysis is conducted. The new requirements were made applicable to all contracts awarded after July 1.