March 24, 2010

Gillibrand Legislation – “Safe Food For Schools Act” – Included In New Child Nutrition Overhaul

Legislation Requires Federal Agencies to Inform Schools About Food Recalls - Protects 31 Million Schoolchildren

Washington, DC – Protecting 31 million schoolchildren enrolled in the National School Lunch program, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the Safe Food for Schools Act will be included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would require federal agencies to issue proper alerts to schools when food contaminations occur and recalls are issued.

Senator Gillibrand, the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, wrote the legislation in response to a Government Accountability Office report that revealed food being pulled from grocery store shelves was still being served in school cafeterias.

“Food safety laws have not changed in over a century, and we have tremendous work to do to keep our children and families safe from foodborne illness,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Parents should have confidence that the food their children are served at school is safe. But schools aren't getting all the information they need from the federal government to keep our kids safe from tainted products. Food items that are being pulled from grocery store shelves across the country are still being served to millions of school children. If our children are going to succeed in the classroom, they need safe, healthy meals in the lunchroom. I will keep fighting to make sure that school meals meet the highest nutritional standards to keep our children healthy and on a path to achieve their full potential.”

In addition to passing the Safe Food for Schools Act in the Child Nutrition overhaul, Senator Gillibrand is also fighting to include legislation that would rid meals served through the School Lunch program of all trans fats. Any school that receives federal reimbursements would be required to remove food containing trans fat from the school.  Schools would have a five year window to implement the policy. The legislation would also include waivers for pre-existing contracts and special circumstances.

Senator Gillibrand’s Safe Food for Schools Act would direct the USDA to:

  • Develop guidelines in consultations with Agricultural Marketing Service and Farm Service Agency to help determine whether to institute an administrative hold on suspect commodities for school meal programs;
  • Work with states to explore ways for states to speed notification to schools;
  • Improve timelines and completeness of direct communication between FNS and schools about holds and recalls, such as through the commodity alert system;
  • Take the lead among USDA agencies to establish a time frame in which it will improve the USDA commodity hold and recall procedures to address the role of processors and determine distributors’ involvement with processed products, which may contain recalled ingredients, to provide faster and more comprehensive information to schools; and
  • Direct the Food Service Inspection Service to revise its procedures to ensure that schools are included in effectiveness checks.