:: 11.19.2003 ::
The USDA Rides Again
This story about the Federal Food Commodities Program, under which the government purchases 30 million pounds of food for school cafeterias every year, sounds suspiciously similar to the Mother Jones story about the USDA covering up charges of meat contamination:
Weems and 43 other students and teachers from Laraway Elementary School were rushed to emergency rooms last November. Another 100 children became sick, as well -- all after eating ammonia-tainted chicken from the commodities program, Savini said.
I don't know about you, but I can't imagine Safeway repackaging and reselling ammonia-tainted food and getting away with it.
"We obtained a list of Commodities food complaints from other Illinois schools -- records that detail choking hazards, such as wire and rubber pieces in hamburger patties," Savini said.
Savini said reports showed that students have found buckshot while eating their burgers, a cigarette butt in food, a metal screw in a French fry, a peach pit in diced peaches that stuck in one child's throat, fruit with worms and bugs in it, and bones in diced chicken.
Savini said records involving the Joliet incident showed that a warehouse ammonia leak tainted the chicken and other stored products, but cases of food from the warehouse were shipped to schools anyhow. Schools immediately complained about discolored and ammonia-smelling food, Savini said, yet they were not told about the ammonia leak.
After state and federal agencies launched investigations into the commodities program, records and photographs showed that some tainted food was destroyed, Savini said. But one document said that 361 cases of food that was considered unsafe were still shipped to 49 Illinois schools.
"The food that was deemed safe to eat was cleaned up, reboxed and shipped to lunchrooms -- again, with no warning," Savini said.
Savini said records showed that the schools were not contacted about the tainted warehouse food until a year after the leak -- and not until after the Joliet outbreak.
"Any system, of course, is not foolproof," Ron Vogel, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the commodities program, told Savini. "There are occasions where products we buy have defects ... We have the same safety guarantees for the food we buy that you might have, in terms of the food you purchase at the grocery store."
Savin said he obtained a federal document that shows an Illinois lawmaker got involved in the ammonia leak case -- not to stop the food from being sent to schools but to get the chicken reboxed and shipped out.
:: Deb 5:20 PM :: permalink ::
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