Food safety in schools sorta sucks

Today’s USA Today has a great feature about food safety and school lunches in the U.S.

Students at Starbuck Middle School stumbled through the halls just after lunch on Oct. 31, 2007, holding their bellies and moaning. When the vomiting began, teachers knew that it wasn’t a Halloween prank.

By midafternoon, almost 70 children waited outside the nurse’s office at the school near Milwaukee. "There were so many kids there, it was like, ‘Holy cow!’ " recalls Michael Hannes, then a seventh-grader who felt "like someone kept punching me in the stomach."

During the Racine outbreak, the scene at Starbuck was so striking that photos of a hallway full of sick kids memorialize the day in the school yearbook. In the foreground sit trash barrels; the school ran out of bags to catch the vomit.

Much about the following days typifies what happens after such outbreaks. Worried that a virus might be to blame, officials closed the school and custodians disinfected every surface; meanwhile, health and school officials tried to learn all they could about what the children ate.

Days would pass before local health officials determined that the tortillas served at Starbuck and four other schools in Racine were to blame for 101 illnesses. An Internet search showed them the stunning particulars: The company that supplied the tortillas had a long history of making children sick.

The feature has lots more details. And is why I always helped pack the kids a lunch.