Connecticut school cafeterias lack local health inspections

Nathan Hale School in New Haven had an inspection in March that found chicken was being served to children at a temperature that can carry bacteria. Inspectors did not go back to the school to re-inspect until December, when they found the same problem.

In October 2010, local health inspectors in Meriden found rodent droppings in the cafeteria of Maloney High School, as well as dirty cabinets and other health violations. Inspectors didn’t go back last year to check to see if the problems were remedied.

In Stamford last year, nine of 32 schools did not have their cafeterias inspected, with the remaining schools inspected fewer than the three times a year required under state regulations.

Those are the findings of a team of journalists and interns reporting for the New Haven Independent.

Paul Kowalski, New Haven’s environmental health director, said, “There is no way we are meeting the state mandate on inspections. I have three sanitarians and over 1,100 food establishments to inspect.”

A review of more than 1,700 inspection reports from 103 cities and towns in 2010 found that many local health agencies, responsible for ensuring that school cafeterias are safely preparing and serving food to children, are not meeting the state Public Health Code on mandated annual inspections. Of the 38 health agencies overseeing those towns, at least half were not meeting the state requirement, the review shows.

In addition to failing to meet the required number of inspections, the review found that timely re-inspections of cafeterias cited for violations were rare.

Cockroaches commandeer Orlando school kitchens

Inspectors have found infestations of German cockroaches in or near the cafeterias or kitchens of 22 Orange County public schools.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that students at many of the schools are eating cold lunches prepared in a central kitchen while the facilities are cleaned and debugged. While the cafeterias are closed, students at 12 of the schools have been eating under outdoor tents or in their classroom, said district spokeswoman Kathy Marsh.

Although school food facilities are inspected every four to eight weeks, the cockroach infestations were missed during daytime inspections, she said.

"Unacceptable" levels of bugs at 22 schools were found during nighttime inspections of all 188 Orange schools Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Most infestations were in the kitchen, the cafeteria or both, but a few schools had bugs in a storage room or bathrooms near the cafeteria.

Mike Eugene, chief operations officer for the district, said each of the 22 schools had dozens of cockroaches, though none had contaminated food. The school district has set up a 24-hour hotline — 407-318-3030 — which will operate through Sunday night, so that parents can get inspection updates on their child’s school.

He called infestations at 22 schools "an unacceptable number," though the schools had passed health inspections.

Eugene said he and other managers did the inspections, and some food in dry storage had to be thrown out. He said the German cockroaches are resistant to the pesticides the schools had been using.

In the future, regular inspections will be done at night, Marsh said. One school, Memorial Middle, has been cleared of bugs and lunches are being served as usual again, she said.

The school district began the inspections after WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando took administrators an undercover video of cockroaches at Pineloch Elementary.

University students plan cafeteria boycott after health violations

Big tip of the hat to the students at New York’s Pace University and a Colbert wag of the finger to Lackmann Culinary Services, which runs the school cafeteria, and was closed after health inspectors discovered it was a dump. reports the city shut down Pace’s main dining hall, along with the school’s coffee kiosk and late-night eatery, last Thursday after observing workers touching food with their bare hands and storing perishable items at unsafe temperatures.

The 79 violation points also included citations for dirty clothing, no soap in the bathroom and un-sanitized cloths.

And just like in the UAE, a company spokesthingy had to say, health and safety are the company’s top priorities.

Which is why Lackmann only now plans to hire a full-time sanitarian and has already made changes to better monitor food temperatures. Students said they noticed the staff wearing gloves for the first time.

They got caught.

The students are having none of it and have Facebook-planned a boycott of the cafeteria.

Orlando Olave, 22, a Pace senior who said he knew several people who believe they have gotten food poisoning from the cafeteria, adding,

"I felt like it was going to happen eventually. [The workers’] aprons are usually dirty, and they wipe their hands on them."

Ashley Cetinkaya, 19, a Pace freshman who plans to buy her lunch elsewhere from now on, said,

"It’s unacceptable considering the prices they charge us. I’m not going to be eating there again."

A Pace spokesthingy said the university is meeting with students this week "to discuss their grievances and the university’s plans for addressing them."

Pace students, take some food safety knowledge with you to the meeting and you’ll know far more than the bureaucrats or the catering firm.

Rodents have been here: Colorado school cafeteria inspections

Inspections of some Colorado school cafeterias in the last two years have turned up evidence of everything from rodents to fecal matter — issues that are considered "critical violations," according to local health departments.

Tom Butts of the Tri- County Health Department, told CBS4 school cafeterias, "in general they are some of our better operated facilities. They have lots of people watching them."

But that scrutiny doesn’t guarantee cleanliness.

At Denver’s South High School, a 2009 city inspection of the cafeteria revealed "evidence of rodents … in the facility. Rodent droppings are found in the dry storage along the walls on the floor."

South High School principal Steve Wera told CBS4 the problems have been addressed, adding, "We’ve made the appropriate changes. We can do better, we need to do better at this so I made sure we did."

Wera said since those problems were discovered the school brought in a new lunchroom manager and made other staff changes.

Most Philadelphia school cafeterias flunk – Health Dept

More than half of the schools in the Philadelphia School District – 53 percent – failed their most recent health inspection, according to state Department of Agriculture records, while a staggering 66 percent of charter schools were out of compliance.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that of the 40 schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that were inspected last school year, 35 percent were out of compliance.

Some schools on the list were hit with as many as 20 risk-factor violations, ranging from mouse feces found on cooking utensils to food being stored next to chemicals.

Justin Carter, a recent West Philadelphia High School graduate, said he gave up eating school lunches long before he graduated. He said the news doesn’t come as a surprise.

"It’s atrocious," he said, recalling his food woes at his alma mater, which was hit with 10 violations last spring.

"They served chicken twice a week, and it wouldn’t be cooked all the way through – it was soft and pink in the middle. The food worker would put it in a microwave for five minutes like that would make it better. It would be the same way every time."

Food donated for animals served in UK zoo cafeteria

In scandal-starved U.K., the Daily Mail reports a safari park has been forced to admit serving up food meant for its animals in the public canteen.

Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire has said that potatoes and onions generously donated for the animals were fed to paying customers.

However safari park bosses stressed today that they had not put customers’ health at risk.

The incident only came to light when a member of the public (or kitchen staff – dp) complained to Central Bedfordshire County Council about kitchen practices.

Park chiefs were then forced to admit that in September last year they had used food in the public canteen that had been donated as animal feed.

However, they insisted this was a ‘one-off’ and not common practice at the park which houses animals including lions, tigers, elephants, rhino and giraffes.

The potatoes and onions were said to have been unsuitable for the animals.
Officials from Central Bedfordshire Council launched an investigation into the incident and discovered the allegations were true.

Food porn, NY Times college cafeteria edition; blowing rhetorical chunks

Why do people no longer read newspapers? Because despite flashes of brilliance, the quality control just isn’t there anymore with all the slashed budgets and too few people.

The New York Times today published a blog entitled, That cafeteria cheese steak might be antibiotic-free, a supposed reflection on college admissions by some mom, Caren Osten Gerszberg.

Antibiotic-free is a bogus claim.

Last month, Gerszberg apparently spent the day at the University of Pennsylvania with her daughter, and her “ ears immediately perked up when our tour guide mentioned the school’s new, sustainable-minded, organic-leaning dining service provider. …

On the Penn Web site, (new provider) Bon Appétit’s food is described as follows: “made from scratch; purchasing practices are seasonal, local and sustainable; meat and dairy antibiotic free, rGBH free milk, featuring cage free eggs; unique menus per cafe; vegetarian, vegan & international options; following Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines.” Without being able to comment on taste at this point, it definitely sounds like a much better direction along nutritional lines — and is so unlike my days of college dining.”

Those claims have little or nothing to do with nutrition. And absolutely nothing to do with microbial food safety – the things that make students barf every week at some campus across America.

Cheese sandwiches for you, cafeteria food fighters

Students at Atlantic City High School were served plain cheese sandwiches for two days as punishment for a cellphone-coordinated food fight that broke out in April.

One parent likened the American cheese between two dry slices of plain white bread to "a prison meal."

That’s not true. My prison food was much better than that.

Senior James Blake, in a statement that could be used to leave him behind and repeat his senior year, said,

"I know it’s food they were throwing around, but some people are allergic to cheese. I can see if they served peanut butter and jelly. But just cheese? It’s ridiculous."

Many schools do not serve peanut-based products because of allergies.

The punishment affects students in the lunch period when the fight broke out, not all three lunch periods.

What should food service employees do if they see a mouse?

Tell someone. Call someone. Kill it.

Ignore it?


Pennsylvania lawmakers wanted to know the answer, and are prepared to legislate one if necessary after their cafeteria was shut down due to rodent problems.

As reported by the Patriot-News,

It might have been the most relevant question at Monday’s inquiry into the mouse infestation and other health problems that temporarily closed the state Capitol cafeteria:

Why didn’t cafeteria employees do something?

There was no direct answer.

The closest came from Bruce Walton, vice president for operations for Aramark, Inc., which runs the cafeteria.

He said "leadership changes" have been made, and Aramark is trying to create an "environment of care" in which Capitol cafeteria employees take a proactive approach to quality matters.

Yet the answer to that question — whatever it is — might prove central to the decision of whether Pennsylvania gets a tougher restaurant law.