School nutrition programs maintain an “excellent” food safety record, according to the School Nutrition Association (SNA), which represents those who provide breakfast and lunch to school children across the country.

The group recently issued a statement and talking points that highlight safety protocols in school cafeterias–pushing back against recent criticism of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) after a USA Today expose found that some leading fast food chains enforce stricter food safety standards.

“School meals programs abide by some of the toughest food safety standards in the industry, and our superior food safety record reflects that fact” said SNA president Dora Rivas, who also serves as the executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services for the Dallas Independent School District in Texas.  

“School nutrition professionals take their responsibilities very seriously – they prepare their meals with a focus on safety and nutrition at all times,” added Rivas.

SNA offers food safety certifications and specialized training for school cafeteria employees. The group has certified over 23,500 school nutrition professionals in food safety and sanitation.

According to SNA, “Schools have implemented food safety programs based on national HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles to identify and eliminate school food safety hazards at every step–from purchasing and receiving, to storing, preparing, and holding.”

The group touts the “exceptional food safety records” maintained by schools, pointing out that Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data shows only 4 percent of foodborne illness outbreaks were caused by food consumed at school, compared to food consumed at home (20 percent) and in restaurants (50 percent).

“School nutrition professionals diligently monitor and maintain their food safety procedures and training, and we welcome the assistance of state and local health departments in ensuring the meals we serve to school children are safe and wholesome,” said Rivas.