In response to requests from school districts across the country, the USDA announced that it will offer more choices to schools in the National School Lunch Program when it comes to purchases of ground beef products.
USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable – including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef. However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef.
USDA continues to affirm the safety of Lean Finely Textured Beef product for all consumers and urges customers to consult science based information on the safety and quality of this product. Lean Finely Textured Beef is a meat product derived from a process which separates fatty pieces from beef trimmings to reduce the overall fat content.
By law, USDA has two primary responsibilities as part of its mandate to provide safe and nutritious food to the American people. Through the Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA ensures that safety of the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and processed egg products. Through the Food and Nutrition Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA provides food and nutrition assistance through several domestic programs, including the National School Lunch Program.
While USDA sets national nutritional guidelines for school meals, school districts make local decisions on what food to feed kids to meet these guidelines. On average, schools in the National School Lunch Program purchase approximately 20% of their food through USDA, and approximately 80% of food served is purchased directly by schools or school districts through private vendors. Schools purchase food from the department through the USDA Foods Program, which provides more than 180 nutritious food items that are fresh, frozen, packaged, canned, dried, or in bulk. USDA procures these products based on the demand from schools to help meet the menu planning needs, student taste preferences, school nutrition goals, and local wellness initiatives.
USDA ensures all food purchased for the National School Lunch Program meet stringent food safety standards, which includes rigorous pathogen testing. Purchase specifications are continually reviewed, microbial test results are evaluated, new food safety technologies are considered, and food safety experts are consulted to determine the adequacy of our food safety requirements.