“It is one of my highest priorities to ensure that food provided to the National School Lunch Program and other nutrition programs is as safe and nutritious as possible,” Vilsack said. “The new standards guarantee our purchases are in line with major private-sector buyers of ground beef. We will continue to apply the best scientific knowledge to increase the safety across the board of our nutritional programs.”

Vilsack announced a series of initiatives in February to improve the safety of food purchased for nutrition assistance programs. The final standards are the result of a detailed, ongoing review by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

The new requirements will be applicable to AMS ground beef contracts awarded on or after July 1, 2010. The AMS released a draft of the plan in May with a request for comments. Based upon comments and data submitted by the Department of Agriculture’s FSIS and ARS and members of the general public, revisions were made to the final specification that will be used for purchases beginning in July 2010.  end_mark

From USDA news release