McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called "spent hens" because they're past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don't pass muster with Colonel Sanders— KFC won't buy them — and they don't pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on "quality considerations."
The gist of the article is that because school lunch standards are less than most fast food chains, the lesser quality or rejected product gets dumped into the Federal system of purchasing food for school lunches. It should be noted that they are talking specifically about the Federally provided food to local schools which makes up about 15-20% of the food in public school cafeterias.
I'm not sure if the takeaway is that fast foods are actually really responsible with food safety or that the federal purchasing program is negligent.