Hank Investigates: School Cafeterias - WHDH-TV 7News Boston

Hank Investigates: School Cafeterias

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Rodent droppings, raw food at room temperature, eggs unrefrigerated, cleaning products dripping into ingredients, all health code violations, all dangerous -- And that's just what may be lurking in your child's school cafeteria. Inspection reports we obtained from across Massachusetts prove some kids could be dining in deplorable conditions with food that's improperly handled, prepared in kitchens infested with rodents or mold or insects.

Sarah Klein, Center for Science in the Public Interest

"In a setting like a school cafeteria, an unclean kitchen can lead to hundreds of illnesses and severe consequences, and even death."

In Lynn schools, inspectors found a decomposing mouse behind the milk chest, rodent feces around the refrigerators, the vending machines penetrated by mice.

Hank

“And what do you think when you see this?”

Frank McNulty, Lynn Health Inspector

“I think it's unfortunate, but mistakes are made.”

In Lowell, flying insects in the kitchen. In some Framingham schools: Mouse droppings, expired food, black mold, and workers handling food with bare hands.

Framingham Health Inspector

"There's huge neglect."

Hank

“Some of these things are disgusting!”

Ethan Mascoop, Director, Framingham Board of Health

“In a sense when I see that in our inspections I feel good, because it means we're doing our work.”

Hank

“But what about the day before that and the day before that?”

Ethan Mascoop, Director, Framingham Board of Health

“That, we're not sure.”

What’s even more frightening: we found many Massachusetts school cafeterias aren’t even being checked! State and federal records we obtained showed dozens of schools not inspected at all.

In Hudson and Westfield and Salem, and more, some schools, not one inspection last school year.

In Stoneham, the board of health just recently learned their school cafeterias were not being checked for problems.

Dan Doherty, Stoneham Board of Health

“The reaction is that as a result we went out and inspected the schools. You know we can't change what didn't occur in the past, but moving forward we can make sure that's a focus.”

And we found, even more Massachusetts schools are not being inspected as often as they should!

Though federal law requires two inspections a year -- we found more than five hundred of them were only inspected once. Schools in Haverhill and Revere and Carlisle. In Marlboro and Walpole and Lynn and Newton and many more--last year had only one inspection. In Lynnfield, the one part-time inspector admits it, and says in his town, it’s impossible.

Hank

“Are you saying you don't have enough people and you don't have enough money.”

James J Nugent/Dir Pub Health Lynnfield

“That is correct.”

Hank

“And as a result you only go in once a year?”

James J Nugent/Dir Pub Health Lynnfield

“Correct.”

In Wakefield, before the new town administrator took over, reports prove schools were rarely inspected.

Hank

“Why weren't these schools being inspected?”

Steve Maio, Wakefield Town Administrator

“I don't know, they should've been.”

When inspectors finally went inside, they found page after page of violations.

Hank

“But this is unlabeled food, this was undated, this was mouse droppings. This was a mess when the inspectors finally got there.”

Ruth Clay, Health Inspector

“Well, there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed, yes.”

How can they get away with it? The US Department of Agriculture is in charge of the school cafeteria program -- but we found they have no power to enforce the rules.

How's your child’s cafeteria doing? You have a right to look at the inspections, check with your local board of health to get copies of the reports.

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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