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TO:                 Superintendents of Schools / Private School Administrators


FROM:           Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


DATE:            January 27, 2004


SUBJECT:      USDA Commodity Beef Products


***** Please forward to Assistant Superintendents, Principals, and Food Service Staff *****


            Given concerns arising over the recent discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), I am writing to inform you of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) complete confidence in the safety of beef supplied to schools and other recipient agencies through the USDA commodity program.  The USDA has provided the following information:


After discovering a single case of BSE in an adult Holstein cow in the State of Washington on December 23, 2003, the slaughterhouse that handled the animal announced a voluntary recall of 10,410 pounds of raw beef.  The recall was initiated out of an abundance of caution.  Most significantly, the diseased parts of the dairy cow, i.e., the brain and spinal tissue, never entered the food supply.


USDA procures the majority of beef used in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and other commodity feeding programs sponsored by USDA.  USDA has purchased none of the implicated beef products for distribution through the NSLP or other Federal food and nutrition feeding programs.  In addition, USDA has never had contracts with any of the involved plants, and they are not part of the supply chain for USDA purchases.  Furthermore, USDA has longstanding and stringent specifications for meat, and it continuously monitors production to ensure a product that is both safe and of high quality.  USDA specifications strictly prohibit meat from downer animals and meat that is mechanically separated from bone with automatic deboning systems, advanced meat recovery (AMR) systems or powered knives for any commodity program. 


Regular updates on this issue are available on the USDA website:  The Food and Nutrition Service website at also has information

and links to other important sources of information.


Again, based upon all of the known facts surrounding the current situation, the USDA is fully confident in the safety of the beef supplied to our schools and other recipient agencies through the commodity programs.


SOURCE:  Eric M. Bost, Under Secretary USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, letter of

     January 8, 2004