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11,000 Food-borne Illnesses Associated With Schools

Some school districts and governments are not inspecting school cafeterias frequently enough or are using out-of-date food safety standards, according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest released Tuesday.

According to this report, conditions in America’s school cafeterias could trigger potentially disastrous outbreaks of food poisoning at any time. Younger children in particular face a higher risk of complications from infections caused by E. Coli, Salmonella and other potentially deadly food-borne pathogens.

In the study titled “Making the Grade,” CSPI analyzed inspection reports from high school cafeterias in 20 areas across the country and then rated those jurisdictions on the rigor of food-safety inspections, frequency of inspections, and ease of access to the results of these cafeteria inspections.

The results, to me, are very worrisome.

Some inspection reports showed unacceptable conditions such as roaches, both dead and alive; rodent droppings; and improper food storage and handling techniques.

“Cities, counties, and school districts shouldn’t wait until a major outbreak of Hepatitis A, E.Coli, or Salmonella forces them to update their food codes and ramp up inspections,” said Ken Kelly, food safety attorney for CSPI and lead author of the report. “Regrettably, many school cafeterias may be just one meal away from an outbreak.”

CSPI’s database has documented more than 11,000 cases of food-borne illnesses associated with schools between 1990 and 2004. These outbreaks have a devastating impact on students’ health, their classroom performance and the district’s financial health. In 2003, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a $4.6 million verdict against a school district after 11 children were sickened from E.Coli linked to ground beef in tacos.

This study brings us one of the most disturbing pieces of information when it comes to food-borne illnesses. We worry about this issue only when we visit restaurants or cook in our homes. We tend to forget about what our kids eat in the cafeteria. We tend to assume that school districts are taking care of their kitchens and food service areas. It turns out many of them are not being responsible when it comes to the health of our children.

Bisnar|Chase has represented and counseled numerous people who have been victims of food-borne illnesses. Holding negligent food handlers, be they restaurants, school systems, growers, wholesalers or retailers is vitally important for the security and health of our food delivery system in this country. Contact us for free consultation.

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