National School Lunch Program questions meat safety

The National School Lunch Program in the USA needs to be investigated because of the doubtful quality of meat used in it, lawmakers said. Concerns appeared after alleged abuse of animals in a Californian slaughterhouse.

Operations at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., which is a major supplier to school lunch programs have been suspended by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The scandal originally appeared after the release of a controversial video showing slaughterhouse employees kicking disabled cows and torturing them with electric shock. Two employees shown in the footage have already been fired, but the company is not allowed to resume its activities until it develops a corrective plan, USDA officials said.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Driven to increase the quality of food in the nation's school lunch program (NSLP), the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) undertook an ambitious agenda a few years ago to provide schools with a consistent supply of safe and low fat ground beef.

Beginning in 2003, AMS established a statistically based vendor certification and supply chain quality management program for the purchase of ground beef for NSLP under the Technical Requirements Schedule - GB-2006 (current version). The program has enjoyed considerable success in reducing pathogen levels and controlling fat content in ground beef that is provided to school children.

Under the program, Meat Grading and Certification (MGC) Branch agents enforce continuous auditing and in-plant monitoring as long as the contractor is in the program. Microbial and fat SPC charts and graphs for microbial levels and fat content are monitored for process assessment purposes on a daily basis.

The NSLP purchasing specification represents one of the most carefully thought out and best implemented supply chain safety and quality management systems in the food industry. It appears to be developing influence within the industry.