New and tougher standards have been implemented for all ground beef purchased for USDA’s numerous federal food and nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program.

The new standards will apply to ground beef contracts awarded on or after July 1.

In addition to continuing a zero tolerance for E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella, the new standards tighten microbiological testing protocols and microbiological limits, while also increasing sampling frequency.

Also, any vendor classified by USDA as having a long-term poor safety record will be considered an ineligible vendor until a complete cause-and-effect analysis is completed.