Conditions in the nation’s school cafeterias could trigger outbreaks of food poisoning at any time, the Center for Science in the Public Interest warned last week in a report. The Washington-based consumer-advocacy group analyzed inspection reports from high school cafeterias in 20 jurisdictions and rated them on the rigor and frequency of their food-safety inspections and the ease of access to the results of the inspections.
Most of the 29 million meals served in school cafeterias each day are nutritious and safe, but some school districts and local governments aren’t conducting frequent enough inspections or using up-to-date food-safety standards, leaving students at risk of food poisoning, the report says.
Young children in particular face a higher risk of complications from infections caused by e. coli, salmonella, and other potentially deadly food-borne pathogens, it says.
Federal food-safety standards call for cafeterias to be inspected twice a year.
District of Columbia school cafeterias ranked among the worst, with a “failing” score. Schools in Fort Worth, Texas, had the highest score in the study.
A version of this article appeared in the February 07, 2007 edition of Education Week