Most San Gabriel Valley students are not eating apples at school this week because food services directors said publicity about safety has caused them to yank the fruit from menus.
“Publicity has really done apples in,” said Marilyn Wells of the Alhambra City and High School Districts. “The children are saying, ‘We are not supposed to eat apples because they are bad.’
“There has been so much publicity that it is not feasible for us to serve them until we have further information from the state Department of Education,” she said. The high school district serves Alhambra, San Gabriel and parts of Monterey Park and Rosemead. The district’s elementary schools are in Alhambra and Monterey Park.
Other districts no longer serving apples include Mountain View, Temple City, Arcadia, Azusa, Charter Oak (which serves Glendora and Covina), Covina-Valley, Duarte, Hacienda La Puente, Monrovia, Pomona, Rowland, South Pasadena, and West Covina unified school districts; the El Monte Union High School District, and the Garvey, Rosemead and San Gabriel school districts.
Several districts, including Pasadena, Claremont and El Monte City, are still serving apples. Baldwin Park Unified School District officials plan to use the supply on hand and then stop offering them. San Marino school officials say they plan to resume offering apples soon.
Concern about apples has grown in light of a national study that found children at an “intolerable risk” of cancer from pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. The Washington-based National Resources Defense Council reported last month that the pesticide daminozide, which is sold under the brand name Alar, could increase the incidence of cancer in children. Applied chiefly to apples, it slows the ripening process and improves appearance.
Bans in L.A. and New York City
The nation’s two largest districts, Los Angeles Unified and New York City, have banned the use of apples.
The San Gabriel Valley’s largest school district, Hacienda La Puente Unified, served the last of its U.S. Department of Agriculture surplus apples on Tuesday because they had not been treated with Alar, said Peggy Reible. She said no more servings are scheduled this month.
Reible and other food services directors hope that the state will be able to clarify the issue at a conference of the California School Food Service Assn., which begins in Oakland on Friday.
She also pointed out that school menus are sent to every home so that parents know whether apples will be served. Most districts said they had received only a few inquiries from parents.
The San Marino Unified School District stopped serving apples for three days but will put them back on the menu soon, said Robert Thompson, assistant superintendent for business.
“We had withdrawn the product out of concern for the health of our students,” he said. “But we have been assured by our suppliers that they do not use Alar.” The Pasadena Unified School District is still serving apples after receiving letters from suppliers used by the district that the apples have not been treated with Alar, said Henrietta De’Ora.
“There is always a choice of fruit so the children don’t have to eat apples,” she said.
The Baldwin Park Unified School District is still serving USDA apples but will not purchase any more until notified by the state that there is no problem, officials said.
The Claremont Unified School District has not yet made a decision, said Mary Polster, but will provide an alternative fruit.
“We are trying not to panic but there has been so much media hype,” she said. “Some of the little kids are saying, ‘Apples are poisoned,’ so the kids probably will bypass the apples.”
Apples are not on the menu this week in the Azusa Unified School District and spring vacation is next week so the situation is on hold, said Sandy Perrin.
No Apples on Menu
“I don’t see a problem, and it has been blown out of proportion, but it becomes a problem when parents read these things,” Perrin said. “So to be safe we are not serving them until we get word from the state.”
In the Arcadia Unified School District, some junior high school students have refused to take apples, said Debra Amos, who stopped serving them on Tuesday.
Bonita Unified School District officials got lucky when they discovered that there were no apples on the March menu. The district doesn’t serve apple juice, and apple sauce is not scheduled until the last day in March. They hope by that time a decision won’t be necessary, a spokesman said.
Some districts that have dropped apples are continuing to serve apple juice and apple sauce because they have letters from their suppliers attesting that no Alar was used.
The Bassett and Walnut Valley Unified school districts could not be reached for comment.