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Food Safety in Numbers

Posted by Carl Schroeder, Director of the AMS Food Safety and Commodity Specification Division in Food and Nutrition Health and Safety
Mar 08, 2016
Two boys with their school meals
USDA works with producers, processors and other federal and state officials to ensure that beef delivered to program recipients is safe and nutritious.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases nearly 100 million pounds of boneless and ground beef each year for distribution through Federal nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program.  AMS works tirelessly with producers, processors, and other federal and state officials to ensure that beef delivered to program recipients is safe and nutritious.

The products we purchase support American agriculture through domestic-only purchases that are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country.  These purchases are a vital component of our nation’s food security program.  The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division – part of the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed program – sets standards and provides testing and oversight for these purchases.

To monitor the quality and safety of the products we purchase, every 2,000 pounds of boneless beef and every 10,000 pounds of ground beef produced for AMS is examined for the presence of various bacteria – including Salmonella and pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli).  Any beef found to contain these bacteria is rejected.  In 2015, less than 0.5 percent of the samples collected during the year contained pathogenic E. coli and less than 2 percent contained Salmonella.

AMS also audits every establishment that we purchase beef from to ensure animals are treated humanely.  Since 2014, AMS had audited the handling of more than 10,000 animals, and we are proud to report that no animal handling and welfare violations have been observed.

Providing safe and nutritious foods to recipients of Federal nutrition assistance programs is a tremendous responsibility, one that requires the best efforts of all involved.  I encourage you to examine the results of our various product testing programs and animal welfare auditing program for yourself on our website at

We are committed to purchasing safe, wholesome foods and will continue to work diligently to ensure that Federal nutrition assistance programs offer high-quality products.