USDA trying to match safety standards of Wal-Mart – not there yet

People hate Wal-Mart. Especially in college towns, where life would be idyllic if everyone had a salary of at least an associate professor, and where one doesn’t fit in without at least three disparaging Wal-Mart comments per conversation about shopping habits.

The children of these people go to elementary and secondary schools, and some may get fed through the school lunch program.

So it’s encouraging to note the U.S. Department of Agriculture has enacted what they call tough new food safety standards for ground beef purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for Federal food and nutrition assistance programs including school lunches.

All it took was a couple of features in USA Today to raise the public’s ire, and awaken dozens of dozing bureaucrats.

As reported in Feb. 2010, the new standards follow a USA Today investigation that revealed that beef bought by the USDA for school lunches is not tested as rigorously for bacteria and pathogens as beef bought by many fast-food chains. The newspaper also reported that some food producers have been allowed to continue supplying the school lunch program despite having poor safety records with their commercial products.

I have such low expectations of government. As I told USA Today back when, ??“Does it have to be government? They’re not very good at this stuff.”??

And as noted by others in those stories, the lesson is that organizations with great buying power — such as fast-food chains or the school lunch program — can set higher standards, and industry ultimately will meet those standards because that’s where the money is. The school lunch program purchases huge volumes of commodities such as beef, poultry and other staples –– $830 million worth in 2008.

So it’s about time. Kids, you’re still just another brick in the wall.