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School cafeterias

Some school cafeterias hold questionable food safety records, study shows

Sunday, February 11, 2007 by: M.T. Whitney
Tags: school cafeterias, children's health, children's nutrition

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(NewsTarget) What's in the mystery meat shouldn't be the only thing school kids worry about when going to the cafeteria: a recent study showed that some cafeterias barely make the grade.

The study looked at high school cafeterias in 20 different jurisdictions across the nation. In some, researchers found roaches, rats and outdated safety codes.

The study was conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based non-profit.

Researchers evaluated the cafeterias on four criteria: how optimal are the food safety codes, how often the facilities are inspected, how easy is to get public information about the cafeteria from the internet and how safe are the cafeterias themselves?

None of the schools received a full 100 percent. Most averaged out in the 60 to 70 percentile range. Two schools didn't even make 50 percent: CSPI's hometown of Washington, and the lowest-ranked school system of Hartford, Conn., which came in with just 37 percent.

Topping the list were Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex., Houston, Tex., King County, Wash. and Maricopa County, Ariz. The latter two counties represent the jurisdictions that include the cities of Seattle and Phoenix, respectively.

Criteria used that could ding a jurisdiction's rating included whether the jurisdiction met the federal requirement of having biannual inspections, the number of health violations found during these inspections and

Another factor that many jurisdictions had their overall ratings lowered on was the lack of information posted on the internet about the safety of their cafeterias, a criterion set by the CPSI. Many received a less than 30 percent rating in this category while receiving between 60 to 90 percent on all other categories.

In Hartford, Conn., researchers found that the schools there had an average of 2.7 violations each inspection – well above every other jurisdiction – and received a 10 percent grade for it.

The CPSI recommends that parents take action, including maintaining cleanly habits by encouraging hand-washing, checking up on posted inspection results inside the school, and informing the school if your child gets a foodborne illness.

Other pieces of note include Maricopa County, Ariz. exceeding the federal requirement of biannual inspections, and the city of Chicago featuring an inspection rule where the spotting of any rodent droppings equals an automatic failure, more rigorous than any other jurisdiction studied.

The full report can be found at this PDF file online


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