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US slow to warn schools of food recalls

Associated Press / September 23, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Federal authorities failed to tell schools about recalls of potentially tainted peanut products and canned vegetables, and cafeterias may have unknowingly served them to children, according to the General Accountability Office.

A GAO investigation found that the Agriculture Department didn’t always make sure states and schools were notified promptly about suspect food distributed through the federal school lunch and breakfast programs, which serve 30 million students.

The GAO reported yesterday that it took up to a week for states to figure out which products were recalled, and that schools may have served the suspect food during that time.

Congressional Democrats asked for the investigation. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said it shows the need for comprehensive food safety reforms.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said safety is of utmost importance and his department is working on new recall policies.