ONLY ON 3: Hamilton County's Elementary School cafeteria ratings - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

ONLY ON 3: Hamilton County's Elementary School cafeteria ratings, how safe is your child's food

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - Public school cafeterias feed nearly a million students in Tennessee each year. Channel 3 takes a closer look at who is making sure that food is safe to eat.

We launched our investigation after a Tennessee elementary school served expired meat.The situation gained national attention. Hawkins County officials say cafeteria workers served young children 6-year-old pork.The meat, which was not labeled, was frozen and then thawed to cook. Channel 3 wanted to know what local inspectors are doing to keep the same thing from happening here in Hamilton County.

Our investigation focused on the performance of elementary school cafeterias since young children are considered to be most at risk when it comes to consuming spoiled or rotten foods. A child's low immune system can make food poisoning or food borne illnesses life-threatening.

Environmental Health Program Manager, Stephen Lowe Wilkins tells Channel 3 his team of 6 inspects 78 Hamilton county school cafeterias twice each year.
That's 26 inspections each.

"They're looking at risk factors, food source, food temperatures, cooking temperatures and hygienic practices," said Wilkins.

School cafeterias lose points for infractions and fail an inspection with a grade of 69 or lower. There are 13 critical violations with not washing hands and storing food at improper temperatures being most serious. 
 
"A food borne illness can be very serious. The reason for the cooling process is to slow down microorganisms' growth. You want to slow down bacteria from growing or microorganisms from decaying. All food decays in refrigeration and that's why we only allow a 7 day shelf life for cold storage," said Wilkins. 

Frozen food can be stored for a year, but inspectors are constantly checking dates to prevent food borne illness, which can be deadly for younger children who have lower immune systems.

We wanted to know how elementary schools performed and requested access to files detailing inspections over the last year.
Out of the 42 elementary schools inspected in Hamilton county, 14 received a perfect score of 100. The lowest score was 89 at Lakeside Elementary.

According to Lakeside's report, investigators found coleslaw stored above the required temperature, a critical violation. The inspector also noted fresh rodent droppings in the laundry and dry stock area.

The cafeteria at Lookout Valley Elementary scored a 91 with a critical violation due to an unlabeled chemical bottle being stored by a sink.

The only other elementary school scoring below a 95, was Harrison Elementary. Their report shows they too had a critical violation due to not labeling chemical bottles properly. 


Wilkins says while some of the critical violations may be alarming, Hamilton County is doing a good job over all of protecting younger students who may not be able to protect themselves.

"The Hamilton County School System in my experience of 25 plus years... run excellently," said Wilkins.

The schools with infractions were given time to make corrections and then re-inspected.
Lakeside Elementary raised their score from an 89 to a 98 in a follow up inspection.
Lookout Valley Elementary also increased their score from a 91 to a 96.
Harrison Elementary made some corrections on the scene, their final follow-up score was 98.

Health Dept: Hamilton County Elementary School's Cafeteria Scores:

  • Allen Elementary School: 100
  • Alpine Crest Elementary : 95, Follow-up Score: 100
  • Apison Elementary: 98
  • Battle Academy: 100
  • Daisy Elementary: 100
  • Dupont Elementary: 96
  • East Brainerd Elementary: 97
  • East Lake Elementary: 95, Follow-up Score: 100
  • East Ridge Elementary: 99
  • Eastlake Academy: 96, Follow-up Score 100
  • Falling Water Elementary: 98
  • Ganns-Middle Valley Elementary:98
  • Hardy Elementary: 96
  • Harrison Elementary: 93, Follow-up Score: 98
  • Henry L. Barger: 99
  • Hillcrest School Plant: 95
  • Hixon Elementary: 100
  • Lakeside Elementary: 89, Follow-up Score: 98
  • Lookout Valley Elementary: 91, Follow-up Score: 96
  • McConnell Elementary: 100 
  • Nolan Elementary: 100
  • Normal Park Elementary: 95
  • North Hamilton County Elementary: 100
  • Ootlewah Elementary School: 99
  • Orcard Knob Elementary School: 99
  • Snow Hill Elementary : 96 
  • Soddy Elementary: 100
  • Spring Creek Elementary: 98 
  • Thrasher Elementary: 100
  • Wallace Smith Elementary School Plant: 99
  • Westview Elementary: 99
  • Wolftever Creek Elementary: 99
  • Woodmore Elementary: 97

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