USA Today on School Food Safety

December 30/States News Service -- As part of an ongoing series on school meals, USA Today's latest story reports on steps the federal government should take to further improve school food safety. "Schools could learn lessons on food safety" focuses on purchasing and testing standards for USDA's Commodity Programs.

Through strict food safety procedures and employee training, school nutrition programs maintain an excellent food safety record. The School Nutrition Association has called on the federal government to improve its procedures to provide timely and accurate notifications to schools when they identify a food safety threat.

SNA President Dora Rivas, MS, RD, SNS, executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services for the Dallas Independent School District in Texas, provided a quote to USA Today saying, "Federal officials must do more to notify schools when they identify food safety hazards. (The USDA and the FDA should) strengthen recall and food safety communications and bring this system into the digital age."

Below are talking points on this issue and on how school nutrition programs maintain superior food safety records:

"The School Nutrition Association and its 55,000 members believe that food safety is paramount. We support strong food safety standards and the effective enforcement of those standards. Our members care for the children they serve, and through strict food safety procedures and staff training, school nutrition professionals maintain a superior safety record while providing nutritious meals to millions of children each day.

"Just like any parent buying food at a grocery store or a restaurant, schools rely on the federal government to inspect and certify the safety of the foods they purchase and to provide timely and accurate notifications when there is a food safety threat.

"The School Nutrition Association has made recommendations to improve communication with states and school nutrition programs, and to enhance recall systems."

* At a March 2008 briefing before the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, former SNA President Mary Hill testified on the critical need for updates to USDA's recall communication system between the Food and Nutrition Service, states and schools that have received potentially tainted products. Hill called for additional training, guidance and funds to assist schools in responding to recalls.

* SNA has made improvements to the recall system a priority issue in discussions with Congress on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.

From the January 4, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition