Gateway schools table action on date restrictions on food – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gateway School District is keeping its food service policy unchanged for now but will discuss the matter further on Tuesday.
The school board voted April 4 to table the public display of a proposed policy that would require the food service department to discard any food that is 6 months old or older.
In the fall, board vice president Valerie Warning told the board that the high school cafeteria contained cheese with a use-by date of 2011 and meat with use-by dates of 2012 and 2014.
Subsequent inspections by the Allegheny County Health Department found that everything was in order in the department and that it was following all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture mandates. The USDA’s food safety and inspection website states that ground beef is safe indefinitely if kept frozen.
Ms. Warning said she would be willing to modify the proposed change to have the department throw out food that was more than a year old. Additionally, she said, all food should be thrown away at the end of the school year.
Martin Lorenzo, the district’s food service director, said, “In my expert opinion, implementing a policy that’s going to put these sorts of restrictions on our food inventory or shelf life is really, from what I understand talking to my colleagues, unprecedented.”
If the board requires the department to dispose of food more than 12 months old, it could cost the district “tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.
He said he has to order items such as meats and cheeses ahead of time and they often come in with dates older than six months to a year.
“I have a year’s worth of turkey coming in May 1,” Mr. Lorenzo said.
“In my 16-year career, this is unprecedented for me to deal with,” he said.
“We’re thinking about possibly making such restrictive policies that nobody else has that could potentially result in having us use taxpayer dollars to subsidize a department that is self-sufficient …,” board member Chad Stubenbort said.
“I would just hate to see us order food and have to throw it out and be at a huge loss,” he said.
Board member John Ritter said the department should follow the USDA guidelines.
“I would say the policy we have in place is the correct one,” he said, telling the board members, “You are not food, nutrition or health care experts.”
The board voted down a suggestion that food be cycled out every three years and will discus the matter at its Tuesday meeting.
Deana Carpenter, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.