Probe of E. coli and school lunches urged by lawmaker
November 09, 2009
by Bryan Salvage
WASHINGTON — Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who is the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, wants an investigation into the risk of E. coli getting into school lunches, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Miller is worried about a recent E. coli outbreak that resulted in the deaths of two people and sickened about 24 others in 11 states that was allegedly linked to ground beef produced by Ashville, N.Y.-based Fairbank Farms.
Although no schools were involved in the outbreak, Mr. Miller said he's worried that tainted food might be purchased for school-meal programs.
Mr. Miller asked the Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.), the investigative arm of Congress, to see whether there are adequate protections for school meals at the local, state and federal level. He also asked investigators to compare the safety and quality of ground beef available to schools with the ground beef available to restaurants and other commercial buyers.
G.A.O. found the U.S.D.A. didn't always make sure states and schools were notified promptly about recalled food distributed through the federal school lunch and breakfast programs, which serve 30 million students.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced a bill to ensure recalled food is quickly removed from school lunches, and she is planning to introduce another bill that would require more testing in ground-beef plants.
"Food items that are being pulled from grocery store shelves across the country are still being served to millions of school children," Ms. Gillibrand said in a statement. "It's wrong, it's dangerous and we need to take action."