Thursday, December 6, 2018

Responding to the Needs of Local Schools, USDA Publishes School Meals Final Rule

Responding to the Needs of Local Schools, USDA Publishes School Meals Final Rule

More Flexibility on Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Provides Options to Schools

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2018 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today empowered local schools with additional options to serve healthy and appealing meals. A final rule on school meal flexibilities, to be published later this month in the Federal Register, increases local flexibility in implementing school nutrition standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium. Secretary Perdue said the final rule will deliver on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) promise, made in a May 2017 proclamation (PDF, 123 KB), to develop forward-thinking strategies that ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.
“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” said Perdue. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”
The actions taken today will benefit nearly 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children annually through USDA’s school meal programs. This rule is part of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to President Trump’s Executive Order to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens.
The Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements final rule offers schools new options as they serve meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) and other federal child nutrition programs. The rule:
  • Provides the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs, and to participants ages six and older in the Special Milk Program for Children (SMP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP);
  • Requires half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich; and
  • Provides more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals.
Perdue said schools have faced challenges serving meals that both are appetizing to students and meet the nutrition standards. “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” said Perdue. “We all have the same goals in mind -- the health and development of our young people. USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”
“We will continue to listen to schools, and make common-sense changes as needed, to ensure they can meet the needs of their students based on their real-world experience in local communities,” said Perdue.
USDA’s FNS works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

FDA Investigating a Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Concord Linked to Tahini Produced by Achdut Ltd.

November 27, 2018

United States Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local partners, is investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Concord illnesses linked to tahini imported from an Israeli manufacturer, Achdut Ltd., located in Ari’el, Israel.

Achdut Ltd. has voluntarily recalled all brands of tahini products manufactured from April 7, 2018 to May 21, 2018 with expiration dates of April 7, 2020 to May 21, 2020.  


The FDA is advising consumers not to eat recalled Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, Pepperwood, and Baron’s brand tahini with expiration dates ranging from April 7, 2020 to May 21, 2020. The product lot codes range from 18-097 to 18-141. Consumers should discard the product or return the product to the store for a refund.

Some brands of tahini manufactured by Achdut Ltd. may lack specific dates or may have labels that are written in Hebrew. Consumers who have purchased a tahini product and are uncertain of where the product was manufactured or cannot identify the brand by lot codes or expiration dates should use caution and discard the product or return the food to the store for a refund. More product information and pictures of the recalled product labels can be found in the firm’s recall announcement.

Retailers and restaurants should not use any of the recalled tahini manufactured by Achdut Ltd. at their establishments. Retailers and restaurants should throw the product out. 

Firms that may have used the recalled tahini (either repacked or used as an ingredient in a food without a kill step) should consider recalling their products. Recalls should be reported to your local FDA office. A list of recall coordinators can be found here.

Consumers who have symptoms of salmonellosis should contact their health care provider to report their symptoms and receive care.


CDC identified five ill people in the U.S. infected with Salmonella Concord that had the same genetic fingerprint as the Salmonella Concord found in tahini sampled at the point of import into the United States. Of the five U.S. cases interviewed, all five reported consuming hummus made with tahini; three people reported eating tahini or hummus made with tahini in a restaurant in the U.S., while the other two people reported consuming tahini or hummus made with tahini during international travel.

A sample of imported tahini collected by FDA at the point of import tested positive for Salmonella Concord. The tahini was Baron’s brand manufactured by Achdut Ltd. This manufacturer was placed on an FDA Import Alert, detaining additional product from the firm at the U.S. border until evidence is presented demonstrating that Salmonella is not present in the product. Whole genome sequencing analysis has indicated the positive sample of imported Baron’s brand tahini is highly related to clinical isolates from ill people in the U.S.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Safety tip: How to travel safely

Safety tip: How to travel safely
Before you take to the roads (or skies) this holiday season, make sure you are ready for both the expected and unexpected. These simple tips can help make the difference.

• Know before you go: Check local road conditions (, weather forecasts (, and news for each part of your journey so you can pack and prepare accordingly. Check your vehicle condition carefully, and pay particular attention to safety equipment (lights, wipers, car jack, spare tire, etc.).

• Stick to main roads/highways when possible: If there is adverse weather expected, stick to the main roads. You can go sightseeing later when the weather is better. Highway crews prioritize the clearing of busy roads during storms, and usually have no capability of ever clearing small roads.

• Let others know your plans: Make sure friends/family are aware of your travel plans, to include the route(s) you plan to take, and when to expect you. Importantly, stick to the planned route(s), or let them know if you have to change plans.

• Bring extra blankets, clothes, and supplies: You may be perfectly fine driving in bad weather, but other people on the road might not be as skilled. If they cause you to crash, make sure you are able to get by until emergency help arrives. An extra coat, blanket, some food and water can all be very helpful.

• Make sure your cellphone is charged, and bring along a car charger. It is difficult to communicate with others, including calling for help, if you don’t have a way to do it. If you plan on listening to music from your phone, keep it plugged in so your battery is still in good shape so you can call if you need to.

• Slow down in bad weather: If you encounter bad weather, like rain, sleet or snow, slow down. Wet pavement reduces traction, which makes braking difficult. If you have to stop, try to plan where you will pull off the road. Look for level, paved shoulders, rest areas, parking lots, etc. If you are still near the road, stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt on, and turn on your hazard lights.

• Keep fuel in your tank: Winter is not the time to try to see how far you can go before you run out of fuel. When you get below half a tank and have an opportunity to refuel, take it. Remember, a winter storm may mean power is out in the place you otherwise might have been planning to get fuel, and you could be stuck.

• If stranded, stay warm and ration supplies: If you get stranded in a storm in winter, stay inside the vehicle if possible to avoid being exposed to frigid temperatures. Ration food, water, and fuel, and get out that blanket you brought to help stay warm. If needed, run the vehicle for about 10 minutes each hour to generate heat, but make sure the tailpipe/exhaust pipe is not blocked, and crack a window so you don’t get carbon monoxide in the car.