Meatingplace reported last week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) most recent data indicates the agency has been effective in reducing the risk of contaminated ground beef finding its way into school cafeterias.

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the program has only detected one positive sample of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef for the National School Lunch program in four years.

AMS requires affected products to be held while they are tested, and contractors are not allowed to fulfill USDA contracts if any harmful pathogens are found. 

“Once product produced for an AMS contract tests positive for a pathogen, it cannot be delivered to meet contract requirements,” USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver told Meatingplace.

In the wake of two E. coli beef recalls in New England, and high-profile media attention to beef safety, U.S. Represenative George Miller (D-CA) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last month to investigate the risk of E. coli getting into school lunches. The USDA provides up to 20 percent of the food served in school meals.

According to Weaver, “USDA specifications for these foods often exceed those for commercial-grade products.”