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September 22, 2009: Government Agency Issues Report Regarding the School Meals Program and Food Recalls

nslpThe U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report during August 2009.  The report discussed a study it conducted to determine the effectiveness of current notification systems used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) when informing schools of food recalls.  The FNS oversees the federal commodity program which provides food to schools at no cost to the schools, and accounts for 15 to 20 percent of food served in school meals.

In one notable example, the FNS did not notify states or schools, in a timely manner, about the Peanut Corporation of America’s recall products.  According to the GAO,

“The FNS did not inform states and schools to hold and not serve the companies’ commodity products until the recalls were expanded to include the companies’ commodity products—weeks later. FNS’s initial notification to states regarding recalls did not provide complete information on the full range of products affected. Instead, states and schools continued to receive information on multiple other recalled products over time. It sometimes took states and schools a week or more to determine what additional products were subject to a recall, during which time they unknowingly served affected products.”

A general lack of communication seems to be the major issue in this situation.  The GAO further stated,

“Although both USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the FDA procedures direct them to conduct recall quality checks, neither included thousands of schools that had received recalled USDA-commodities products for the beef and peanut recalls because they thought FNS conducted these checks. As a result, they were unable to ensure that the recalls were being carried out effectively by schools. FNS officials said that they did not conduct any kind of systematic quality checks of schools receiving recalled commodities, because they relied on FSIS and FDA to conduct such checks.”

The GAO’s final recommendations regarding safeguarding our children when it comes to the school meals program and nationwide food recalls were,

“To better ensure the safety of foods provided to children through the school meal programs, we recommend the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of HHS take 12 actions to make improvements in three areas related to recalls affecting schools: interagency coordination; notification and instructions to states and schools; and monitoring effectiveness.”

The 12 actions to be taken by the FNS can be seen in the GAO’s full report.

The Law Firm of Eric H. Weinberg represents victims of Salmonella outbreaks nationwide, including Peanut Butter Corporation of America, Banquet Pot Pie, Veggie Booty, Arby’s, and Peter Pan outbreaks. We are ready to help you.  If you have been injured as a result of Salmonella food poisoning and you have a question concerning you legal rights, please call us toll free at 1-877-934-6274, or click Free Legal Case Evaluation.

For more than 25 years, the Law Firm of Eric H. Weinberg has been committed to obtaining compensation for individuals injured by defective pharmaceutical drugs and food poisoning outbreaks.  We are currently assisting individuals injured by Reglan/Tardive Dyskinesia LawyersHydroxycut Products Lawsuit, Zicam Injury Lawyers, and the quinalone antibiotics Levaquin and Ciprofloxacin Lawyers.

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