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Food Safety and Chicken Served in the National School Lunch Program

Posted by Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in Food and Nutrition Health and Safety
Sep 25, 2013

In response to a recent report about chicken served in the National School Lunch Program, I wanted to provide some clarification.  Food safety is one of our highest priorities, and USDA is committed to ensuring that food served through the National School Lunch Program is both healthy and safe.

Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program receive some of their foods through the USDA, and the rest is purchased on the commercial market.  USDA is only involved in the purchases that are made through our program, and all of the food provided through USDA is 100 percent domestically grown and produced.

When schools make their own purchases, the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act requires them to purchase domestically grown and processed foods, “to the maximum extent practicable.” Schools are allowed to consider a product domestic if it was processed in the United States, and over half of the ingredients are considered domestic.  Schools have the option, if they choose, to only purchase products that are 100 percent domestically grown and processed.

It is also important to know that all domestic and imported poultry must meet rigorous USDA standards before it can reach the public.  USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has a stringent inspection system in place, which includes increased inspections at port-of-entry and annual audits of China’s system for processed chicken.  For more information about the inspection of imported chicken, I recommend that you check out this blog post published yesterday by Al Almanza, the FSIS Administrator, on Ensuring Safety of Imported Processed Chicken from China.