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Most school cafeterias pass test
Students might not always think highly of the mystery meat they get at school, but they can't complain about cleanliness in the caf.
School cafeterias in the region held up well in food safety inspections, according to inspection data from more than 2,000 records.
Eight agencies conducted the inspections in more than 400 school cafeterias. A Morning Call analysis shows that the schools averaged 97.7 out of a possible 100 on recent food inspection scores, better than the average for all establishments.
That's less than one critical violation per inspection.
"Schools, I think, are some of the cleanest kitchens around," said Glenn Bush, a New Tripoli commercial kitchen consultant who has worked on cafeteria projects across the region.
Some departments inspected schools but did not issue scores.
High scores for the 402 schools in the analysis are not solely linked to expensive renovations. Consider Broughal Middle School in Bethlehem. The aging South Side school, which may be replaced, scored a perfect 100 in three inspections over the past three years.
Bethlehem schools averaged 98.6 out of 100 in food inspections.
Bethlehem inspectors also recorded the lowest rate for finding critical violations among agencies. But the overall high performance of school cafeterias held true elsewhere as well.
Allentown schools averaged 97.9 in 313 inspections over the past five years; schools under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Agriculture scored 97; and Bucks County schools averaged 95 -- five points better than the average for establishments countywide. Other agencies recording school cafeteria scores were health departments in Fountain Hill, Slatington, Bath and Wilson.
As in its overall performance, the Agriculture Department failed to inspect every school at least once a year, the state's suggested minimum. The state averaged 0.7 inspections per school a year for the past five years. The other agencies averaged from one per year (Bethlehem) to 1.8 inspections a year (Allentown.)
Not all schools had stellar report cards.
For instance, a state inspector found "fragments" of mice in a storage room trap at the Pen Argyl Area High School cafeteria during an inspection in October 2002. The school was inspected only once subsequently, 16 months later. The rodent problems had been resolved by then.