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NEWS RELEASE February 11, 2004

PCRM Calls on Nation’s Schools to Drop Beef from Lunch Programs Due to Mad Cow Disease Threat

Letter to 75 Biggest School Districts Urges Healthier Vegetarian Meals

WASHINGTON–The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) today called on the nation’s schools to drop beef from their lunch programs because of the threat posed by mad cow disease. In a letter to the country’s 75 biggest school districts, PCRM Nutrition Projects Coordinator, Jennifer Keller, RD, urged school food service directors to replace beef and other meaty items with safer – and healthier – vegetarian fare.

“The alarming reality is that because of lax regulations, poor enforcement, and very limited testing, the extent to which mad cow disease has entered the human food supply is unknown,” says Keller.

What is known, she adds, is that many U.S. livestock rendering and feeding practices are similar to those in place in Great Britain just before the outbreak of the mad cow epidemic there. More than 140 people were stricken and died from the human form of this infection, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (vCJD) disease, as a result of eating contaminated beef.

PCRM recommends that school lunch programs replace beef with soy, textured vegetable protein, and beans in menu items to assure that children in our schools have safe, healthy and tasty menu choices.

“Veggie burgers, soy hot dogs, and other meatless menu choices are low in fat, high in fiber, aid children in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and are free of prions, the infectious agent in mad cow disease and vCJD,” says Keller, who serves as director of PCRM’s Healthy School Lunches Campaign, dedicated to educating the public and school officials about healthy, science-based diets.

“A healthy vegetarian menu is a win-win situation for kids and adults,” she adds.

Learn more about mad cow disease and vCJD here. For a copy of the letter and for more information on the Healthy School Lunches Campaign, and PCRM’s annual School Lunch Report Card, which grades the nutrient quality of menu items offered in the nation’s largest school districts, visit PCRM’s Web site at

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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