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USDA Responds to Charges of Misleading Parents on Chinese Chicken in School Lunches

On Wednesday, Bettina Siegel, author of The Lunch Tray blog, published an article entitled, “USDA Misinforms Parents About Chinese-Processed Chicken in School Meats.” In response, USDA has posted a clarification on its blog that all the chicken it provides to school lunches is domestic.

“Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program receive some of their foods through the USDA, and the rest is purchased on the commercial market,” wrote Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “USDA is only involved in the purchases that are made through our program, and all of the food provided through USDA is 100 percent domestically grown and produced.”

Right now, there is no Chinese-processed chicken in anyone’s lunches. As Al Almanza wrote in an separate post on Tuesday, “Before China can begin sending cooked chicken to the U.S., they must certify plants that will process the chicken for export, and provide this list to FSIS. To date, this has not been done and China has not provided a timeframe for when they intend to begin exporting to the U.S.”

In addition, a USDA spokesperson has told Food Safety News that inclusion at some point of Chinese chicken in school lunches through private vendors could be “within the realm of possibility, but probably not likely.”

If such chicken were included, it would be because of a school’s choice, not because of USDA. But, when purchasing from private vendors, schools are still required to purchase products processed in the U.S. and containing at least half domestically produced ingredients. Schools also have the ability to require only 100-percent domestically grown and processed foods.

About 45 percent of the chicken served in school lunches comes through USDA Foods.

© Food Safety News
  • Mike

    Where are all the “school lunches could kill our children” posts, like the ones after the Bettina Seigel blog posted on FSN?
    Off topic: The comments on here are weird sometimes. It’s either “get rid of the government regulations and leave the farmers/growers alone” for articles about Jensen Farms (which was an outbreak that actually killed people) and “there’s not enough government regulations” on articles such as this, where no one has been ill or died because there is no Chinese processed chicken in school lunches (so far).

    • Trigger words and Google news search can bring in a host of opinions one way or another.

      Facebook is another driver behind the seeming lopsided commentary.

  • Nancy Huehnergarth

    The possibility of Chinese processed chicken finding its way into our school food — or any of our food — is alarming. Consumers and school officials would be hard pressed to learn if any products they were purchasing contained chicken processed in China. China’s recent food safety record has been beyond appalling and I don’t see how the USDA can ensure the safety of this product. Additionally, I’d love to hear what labor leaders think of sending America’s poultry to China for processing. If a number of large food companies find that sending American-raised chickens to China for processing saves money, what will happen to the employees of poultry processing facilities here in the US? Isn’t this decision to allow chickens to be processed in China simply the beginning of opening the floodgates to Chinese-raised poultry and other products?

  • Lisa Stauber

    The problem (as pointed out by Seigel) is that NOT ALL CHICKEN provided to school lunches is provided by the USDA. While the USDA provided meat will not be processed in China, that doesn’t mean that school lunches are 100% domestic.

    Many schools buy prepackaged meals (i.e., chicken fingers) from 3rd parties who could source the chicken from Chinese processors. China has an abysmal food safety record, and that’s why parents like myself are understandably worried. It’s also worrisome that the FDA will not require chicken processed in China to be labeled-eliminating our ability to choose.

  • Dan

    They did not really deny the claim. All I read in this article is that the “School Lunch Program receive [s] some of their foods through the USDA” but that the REST is purchased in the commercial market. so if “45 percent of the chicken served in school lunches comes through USDA Foods.” than what of the other 55%?

  • caj

    The fact that people still easy chicken or any animals is alarming. Make the connection. Evolve. Vegan for LIFE <3

  • yogachick

    Sorry USDA, “but within the realm of possibility” just doesn’t cut it! Parents are better off sending organic PB and J then eating any meat or dairy products certified by the untrustworthy USDA!

  • Barb3000

    I happen to know for a fact that China is shipping frozen catfish to US supermarkets all over the US. Several lbs. in the bag for about one third the cost of the clean catfish that is raised in the southern states. Most of the public has no clue how filthy the ponds are in China that ship numerous different breeds of fish to this country to be sold to the public. This is putting a lot of the US farmers that raise these fish out of business. The only thing that will be on the market will the garbage raised in China.

  • I would say by the interest given the story, people want to know what their kids are eating.


  • Kamia Taylor

    Even if the chicken being used by schools is US-raised, it doesn’t protect the kids who eat it from an every-increasing load of arsenic (which can’t be excreted), antibiotics and other junk that keeps factory-farmed chicken alive. We should require that all school food be locally-sourced. It would help local farmers, and provide far better quality. Or just offer vouchers to parents to provide their own lunches during the school year.

  • Frankie

    It is so wasteful for USDA to have to respond to food cop crackpots like Bettina Siegel. It definitely is a form of domestic terrorism when agenda whores like Siegel systematically waste our time and limited resources like this. These smarmy people say they have a right to know but most of those fools don’t know diddly squat even after you inform them. Professional social media lunkheads, twisted vandals who insist upon holding everything up to have stupid questions answered.

  • GrampyNate

    “Journalistic terrorism and should be curbed”??
    It doesn’t even qualify for “workplace violence” (Ft. Hood massacre) or “man-caused disaster” (Twin Towers, WTC 9/11).
    Yet their 1st Amendment rights need to be taken away?
    “About 45% of the chicken served in school lunches comes through USDA Foods.” That means 55% doesn’t. Maybe some of that will be Chinese, like the FDA toothpaste and other bad products that came from there.
    Government inspection doesn’t make you safe, you have to do that yourself (when they let you).
    Government inspection and regulation just gives you peace of mind.