Fast food is notorious for its high calories and fat content; however, a new study has found the meat served by restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s, is actually safer than the hamburgers served in school lunches. It is not that fast food, largely responsible for the obesity epidemic in America, is healthier than school lunches, but fast food restaurants have stricter safety standards. Considering children are “most susceptible to food-borne illnesses”, it is morally reprehensible the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) does not take food safety seriously.
The NSLP was established in 1946 under the National School Lunch Act during the Truman administration. The first McDonald’s opened in 1940 in San Bernardino, CA. The NSLP was designed to provide “nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day”. McDonald’s was designed to provide cheap, fast food to families while making a profit through franchising. The intensity of the fast food industry’s growth has affected the beef industry. Slow Food Revolution explains:
The fast food industry has changed the slaughter and meat packing industry. The fast food industry needs to produce tremendous amounts of chopped beef for its millions of pre-prepared hamburger patties sold each day. The methods used to produce those hamburgers are creating a situation where meat packing plants are moving away from their former areas where unionized and trained meat packers slaughtered animals in a fairly efficient and humane manner. The new plants have moved to smaller towns where underpaid workers, often immigrants, are slaughtering animals and producing meat in an unsafe manner. The dangers of contamination of this meat are getting higher and higher. The working conditions are dangerous for the employees as well.
Given this description, it is even more frightening to think that fast food giants have higher safety standards than school lunches. USA Today reports:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program “meets or exceeds standards in commercial products.”
That isn’t always the case. McDonald’s, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
The USA Today investigation found the USDA regularly provides schools with meat from “spent hens” that even Kentucky Fried Chicken and Campbell’s soup won’t use for “quality considerations”. Ground beef is sent to schools with “unusually high levels of an indicator bacteria known as ‘generic E. coli'” that would have been rejected by fast food giants.
We’ve previously reported on how the National School Lunch Program is heavily influenced by lobbyists and a shocking video of a downed cow being lifted by a forklift to pass USDA inspections by a leading supplier to the NSLP. We’ve even told you how cheeseburgers are healthier than some kinds of baby food. It is astounding to me that our children do not get the highest quality food, especially in a government sponsored program, such as the NSLP.