BUFFALO, NY - The food that is prepared and served in school cafeterias should be important to every parent. In fact, it should score high in importance, just like other school-related issues.
2 On Your Side looked at hundreds of school cafeteria inspection reports completed in 2012 in Erie and Niagara Counties. The findings overall were very good, but there were a few hiccups. We found some schools in violation for not having soap at a hand sink for workers to wash their hands. One school had "mouse feces along walls in dry storage area," according to the inspection report. Fortunately, none of the mice droppings were in food. The school reacted promptly and even brought in a professional cleaning company.
Health inspectors go inside school cafeterias at least twice a year. Their job is to make sure the food being served has been properly handled, stored, cooked and served.
They check everything in the food preparation area, including the ventilation hoods above the cooking areas. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says "food could possibly get contaminated with dust," and so inspectors will write it up as a violation if the hooded areas are not clean.
Workers are observed. They must wear hair nets and gloves.
"If it's food that's about to be consumed by someone with a bare hand, we insist that the food be destroyed on the spot," said Jeff Jurewicz, Senior Public Health Sanitarian with the Erie County Health Department.
Priority number one, according to health officials 2 On Your Side spoke with, is the food temperature. The temperature for hot, cold and frozen foods must be accurate. Franny Calkins, Waterfront cafeteria manager said, "there's a safety zone, a danger zone where if your food is too hot, it's no good. You want to keep it below that level before we serve it to the kids because you could get poisoned real fast."
2 On Your Side was allowed inside of two school cafeterias where the kitchens were clean and well managed. Waterfront Elementary School in Buffalo and Hoover Elementary in the Town of Tonawanda.
We have created a special link for you to look at cafeteria inspection records for all of the schools in Erie and Niagara.
Use the search box on the left to see School Cafeteria Inspection reports in Erie and Niagara Counties.
Parents can also contact their local health department if they think there's a problem with food safety or if they want more information about health inspections performed in school cafeterias.
"Overall our findings were that school cafeterias are providing safe food to our students, said the Erie County Health Commissioner.