For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called “spent hens” because they’re past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don’t pass muster with Colonel Sanders – KFC won’t buy them – and they don’t pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on “quality considerations.”
-- USA Today
Ever since starting DadTalk, I’ve followed issues that effect parents. Early topics included vending machines in schools, childhood obesity, lead in toys and the housing bubble.
Lately, I’ve been focused on food policy, which may be the most singly screwed up aspect of American culture, politics and society – EVER. (Okay, energy policy might be equally frakked up.)
If you have any doubt, just re-read the quote at the top of this post. Fortunately for my kids, I decided to stop buying school lunches at the end of last year.
It’s enormously stressful trying to get lunch ready for two kids every morning, but reading quotes like the one above and below comforts my frayed nerves.
“We simply are not giving our kids in schools the same level of quality and safety as you get when you go to many fast-food restaurants,” says J. Glenn Morris, professor of medicine and director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. “We are not using those same standards.”
USA Today wrote the above story following what has happened with the recall of 825,769 pounds of tainted beef in August; schools received suspect meat while food companies did not. Here’s what happened:
The recall, announced by the government (on) Aug. 6, covered only ground beef sent to certain retailers. In the days after it was announced, government and company spokesmen said meat sent to schools was not included. Documents obtained by USA TODAY through the Freedom of Information Act reveal a more complicated story – one that raises questions about whether the government took adequate steps to ensure that meat it bought for schoolchildren during the same period was safe.
The story continues:
Even as public health officials told residents to throw out recalled products from the Fresno plant, the federal government paid Beef Packers hundreds of thousands of dollars for almost 450,000 pounds of ground beef made from June 5 to June 23, the dates covered by the recall. Four orders were produced for the school lunch program during that period, a USA TODAY investigation found. One tested positive for salmonella Newport, the strain that prompted the recall and can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting; that order was rejected by the government. Tests on the other three orders found no salmonella, and the beef was shipped from the plant before the recall was announced.
Keep in mind, children are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. (I know barfing my brains out never did me much good, either, except for short-term weight loss.)
If you want to know more about what your kids are eating, I recommend you read these stories. It certainly is an eye opener even for someone as jaded as myself.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned. Other problems include suspect imported food, salmonella-contaminated fruit and vegetables, over-reliance on pesticides and herbicides, and genetically altered food products. The list goes on from there.
If you live in states with strong farmer’s markets, you at least have a wonderful alternative. If you live in a state like Arizona, where farmer’s markets can’t find any local farmers, the best you can do is commute to Whole Foods and dig deep into your wallet. (I consider them a necessary evil at this point.)
I am sadly aware of how tired Americans are of fear tactics in the media: crime, terrorism, health care, environment, etc. But if there is one area parents should pay attention to, it’s what we put in our kids – and ours, for that matter – tummies.