Daily News Archives
Foods Banned from Washington DC's School Lunch Program
(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2004) School officials'
decision on Wednesday night to ban irradiated food from its school lunches
is a welcome move that will help safeguard students from the unknown
effects of consuming irradiated food, according to Public
Citizen and the Youth Education Alliance.
In an 8-1 vote, the District of Columbia Board of Education followed
a new trend nationwide by passing a resolution that forbids the 167-school
system from purchasing irradiated food for any of its meal programs
for five years. Although the school system does not currently serve
irradiated food, it can. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last
year approved the use of irradiated ground beef in the National School
Lunch Program. The program provides free or reduced-price school lunches
to 27 million children annually. Around 60 percent of the D.C. schools
system's 65,000-plus students qualify for the federally subsidized meal
Banning irradiated food from school cafeterias is one way to safeguard
students who would otherwise have no way to protect themselves from
eating meat that has been treated with the controversial irradiation
technology. Federal law states that while irradiated meat must be labeled
in grocery stores, it does not have to be labeled when served in school
cafeterias, restaurants or hospitals.
The school board's move came after students and Public Citizen urged
the board to ban irradiated food. The students also called on the board
to improve the quality, safety and wholesomeness of food served in D.C.
"Instead of spending more money on irradiated meat - which will
not solve the most common contamination problems in D.C.'s cafeterias
- we can now focus on bringing fresher and healthier ingredients to
improve students' lunches," said Monique Mikhail, organizer for
Public Citizen's Safe Lunch Campaign. "We applaud the D.C. School
Board for protecting students from an unnecessary and potentially harmful
Irradiation exposes food to a dose of ionizing radiation to kill bacteria.
However, research has shown that it also produces chemicals that are
known or suspected carcinogens. Recent research has shown that one class
of these chemicals, cyclobutanones, promotes cancer development as well
as causes genetic damage to human cells. The USDA decision to approve
irradiated meat for the school lunch program was controversial because
the federal agency sided with industry over parental concerns. Of the
thousands of comments the government has received, 93 percent have been
in opposition to the proposal to include irradiated meat in children's
lunches. To date, no school district has purchased irradiated meat through
the USDA for the 2004-2005 school year.
"We're happy that the school board banned irradiated meat because
we didn't want students to be worried about what was on their lunch
trays," said Mayonna Bangura, youth organizer for the Youth Education
Alliance and a 10th grade student at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School.
"It's a first step in the right direction towards healthy, safe
and better-tasting lunches."
For more information,
contact Monique Mikhail, Public Citizen, at 202-454-5174 or Ann Caton,
Youth Education Alliance at 202-498-7075.
ACTION: Work to get local and organic
foods into your local schools. Berkeley (CA) Unified School District
has taken a major step in providing children with sustainable and organic
food in its cafeterias. The food policy, established in 1999, is part
of an overall mission to "improve the health of the entire community
by teaching students and families ways to establish and maintain life-long
healthy eating habits." One major goal of the policy is to ensure
that all food served by the District is "organic to the maximum
To find out how your school can pass
a similar policy, start a school garden, and/or get involved in a local
farm to school program, contact Beyond