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School Lunch Laws Are Unenforceable, Says USDA

More disturbing news as USA Today continues its exposé on the abysmal state of school lunches. The headline of its most recent article: 26,500 school cafeterias are not properly inspected, leaving U.S. children susceptible to foodborne disease pathogens, such as norovirus. That's roughly 30 percent of schools in the U.S.The National School Lunch Program mandates that school cafeterias, which serve 31 million students nationwide, be inspected twice during a school year to make sure their facilities and storage practices are up to snuff. The USDA, according to the piece, admits its "the rule is almost impossible to enforce." That's because the language of the law requires that states report how many of their schools are failing-and not which ones are the health hazards.The paper does include a template for fixing the status quo, in the form of the Westchester County, New York school district. In response to 16 percent of its schools getting tagged with failing to meet inspections, its health department fired its food supplier and renovated the kitchen of its most infamous school. Now, only one cafeteria in the district wasn't up to par.The problem with all this is that, like Jack in the Box, these template institutions are waiting until they're fingered as failures before they step up to become paragons of safety. USA Today reports that there have been at least 23,000 foodborne disease cases linked to school cafeterias during the decade from 1998 to 2007. Put in perspective, that's actually not a huge number; but it's 23,000 more than is acceptable.Photo by Flickr user bookgrl.

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