Health standards for school lunch meat far lower than for fast food joints

school lunchAs a Dad with a daughter in public school, I was more than a little alarmed to read that the meat/bacteria regulations for fast food restaurants are 10 times more strict than the standards set by the USDA for school lunches, according to a report by USA Today.

Underscoring how truly alarming this is requires some history. Back in 1993, Jack in the Box fast food restaurants were responsible for the deaths of several children due to E. coli O157:H7 food poisoning. Four kids died of hemolytic uremic syndrome and 600 residents of Washington state were sickened or hospitalized with bloody diarrhea stemming from bacteria-tainted hamburgers, derived from meat produced by Von Companies of California.

In all, 73 Jack in the Box locations throughout the West and Midwest were found to be distributing meat tainted with E. coli O157:H7.

Since then, tighter rules have been applied to fast food restaurants and how they prepare their meat. Of course, most of the regulations end there and the actual sources of E. coli O157:H7 tainted meat -- meat packing plants and factory farms -- are still in full operation, cranking out new cases of food poisoning all the time.

In other words, school beef and poultry is less safe than fast food meat -- despite fast food's notorious history with E. coli O157:H7, salmonella and other types of food poisoning. Jack in the Box is safer than the burgers at school.

It gets crazier, though. USA Today reported that USDA rules for supermarket beef are even less stringent than the standards for school meat.

So fast food beef, for all of its infamy, is safer than school beef, and school beef is safer than supermarket beef. Would it be too much to ask for meat that's at least safer than fast food standards? Can we at least set the bar a little higher than Jack in the Box?

This is clearly one circumstance in which it's safer to eat fast food than to cook at home. And fast food is generally terrible.

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