FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
Food Safety a Priority for School Nutrition Programs
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (December 16, 2009) – Through strict food safety procedures and employee training, school nutrition programs maintain an excellent food safety record. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) and its members support strong food safety standards and the effective enforcement of those standards.
“School meals programs abide by some of the toughest food safety standards in the industry, and our superior food safety record reflects that fact” said School Nutrition Association President Dora Rivas, MS, RD, SNS, and executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services for the Dallas Independent School District in Texas. “School nutrition professionals take their responsibilities very seriously – they prepare their meals with a focus on safety and nutrition at all times.”
SNA is one of several organizations to offer food-safety certifications and specialized training for school employees. SNA alone has certified more than 23,500 school nutrition professionals in food safety and sanitation. Schools have implemented food safety programs based on national HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles to identify and eliminate school food safety hazards at every step – from purchasing and receiving, to storing, preparing and holding. Additionally, food safety training for school foodservice staff is required by many state, local or school district mandates.
As part of the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization, SNA supports establishing federally mandated professional standards for those working in school foodservice, including food safety training for all employees.
The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study found that nearly 87% of school foodservice staff received basic food safety training before they were allowed to prepare or serve food, and in more than 82% of schools, a certified food safety manager was present while food was being prepared and served.
These stringent standards, which SNA and its members have supported, have helped schools maintain exceptional food safety records. CDC’s most recent Surveillance for Foodborne-Disease Outbreaks showed that 4 percent of outbreaks were caused by food consumed at school, whereas food prepared at home caused 20 percent of the outbreaks and restaurant fare caused 50 percent of outbreaks.
Food safety is a shared responsibility. Under federal law, schools are required to receive two health inspections a year, but these inspections are conducted by state or local health departments, leaving schools with little control over the actual number of inspections school cafeterias receive. Too many over-burdened local and state health departments simply fail to conduct the required number of inspections each year, even when schools officially request additional inspections. Successful partnerships between health departments and school programs do exist in many districts and should be the model for effective school inspection programs.
“School nutrition professionals diligently monitor and maintain their food safety procedures and training, and we welcome the assistance of state and local health departments in ensuring the meals we serve to school children are safe and wholesome,” said Rivas.