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