BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Food service programs in schools have to undergo the same rigorous inspections as restaurants. News 4 Investigates discovered that a number of school cafeterias across Western New York have been cited for critical violations this year.
Lafayette High School
A September inspection at Lafayette High School in Buffalo resulted in three critical and four non-critical violations. Inspectors noted that three trays of chicken strips had a temperature of 69 degrees and were voluntarily discarded.
Bridget Obrien-Wood, Food Service Director for Buffalo Public Schools, says the critical violations were corrected.
“We’re in compliance with all of our training. And truly food safety is top priority,” says Bridget Obrien-Wood. “We have 34,000 students everyday that we have the responsibility to serve.”
A re-inspection of Lafayette weeks later found zero violations.
North Tonawanda High School
At North Tonawanda High School a September inspection was done by Niagara County health inspectors resulting in one critical and three non-critical violations. For example, inspectors noted that tuna in a salad line had a temperature of 51 degrees when it needed to be 45 or less.
“They voluntarily threw it out because it was out of temperature. Voluntarily, they just decided let’s be cautious. Let’s just throw it out,” says Scott Ecker of the Niagara County Health Department.
Alan Getter, who is Asst. Superintendent for Adminsitrative Services at North Tonawanda City School District, says two things happened.
“As soon as that was found they did dispose of the tuna salad, and the second is they reviewed their procedures to make sure that they were put back so that the temperature would never be an issue in the future,” Getter says.
The school had a re-inspection in October which found no critical violations.
Dunkirk School #3
At Dunkirk School #3 in Chautauqua County a January inspection resulted in one critical violation: bologna and cheese sandwiches were not held at a cold hold temperature of 45 degrees or less.
“What I would surmise occurred would be that it wasn’t rotated properly. It was either selling slow and not rotated back into the cooler or it wasn’t properly monitored by a line person,” says William Thiel, of the Dunkirk City School District.
Thiel says they’ve talked to the contractor that handles Dunkirk’s food service.
“Not everything is done perfectly all the time. People make errors. You get input. You correct the operation. You emphasize it again with your contractor and you move forward.”
At Nardin Academy in Buffalo inspectors found two critical and five non-critical violations during a September inspection. Inspectors noted unlabeled chemical spray bottles on service counter by coffee station and on food prep tables in the kitchen.
In response, Nardin Academy states that the citations were corrected and subsequent inspections found zero violations. In a statement, Marsha Joy Sullivan, Nardin President says that the inspection occurred when the school was shifting from a private vendor to scratch-cooked food prepared by in-house staff. She said Nardin “is diligent in our commitment” to providing a “healthy, safe and sanitary” school environment.
Mark Kowalski of the Erie County Health Department says in general Erie County schools operate “quite well” and are “responsive” to inspections.
“Their particular challenge is, can sometimes be support staff of cleaning and equipment maintenance. But once brought to attention I find them very responsive to the reports we give them,” Kowalski says.
Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart
A September inspection at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart resulted in two critical and one non-critical violations. The violations included a couple of salad bar items not kept at the required 45 degree or less temperature.
In response, Sacred Heart states that immediate modifications were made to the salad bar system, including the installation of a metal freezer shelf to increase refrigeration.
“This modification rectified the situation and, since the installation of the new refrigeration system, internal spot checks have confirmed that sacred heart has been able to maintain temperatures below 45 degrees,” according to the statement.
Maplemere Elementary School
Over to Amherst and Maplemere Elementary School where a September inspection resulted in one critical and three non-critical violations. Inspectors noted that hot dogs were not maintained at a proper hot holding temperature and had to be reheated to 165 degrees.
“Back to a temperature of 165, and then down to holding 140,” says Kowalski.
“Time is being taken into consideration here of how long it had been out of temperature, and then a state’s prescribed activity to put it back into compliance was applied,” adds Kowalski.
Sweet Home Central School District Superintendent Anthony Day tells News 4 Investigates the issues at Maplemere were immediately corrected, and says the district runs a strong, well-maintained school lunch program.
Health department officials say there’s a difference between schools and restaurants. For one, they say school food is not out as long because meal periods are shorter, and that cuts down on problems.
During 2013 inspectors visited over 700 schools with about half showing no violations.