Dade County Public Schools in Florida, the nation’s fourth-largest school district, on Wednesday joined a growing list of school systems across the nation that have banished apples and related products from lunch menus because of fear of daminozide, a chemical used to treat some apple crops.
It follows New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and scores of smaller districts that have removed apples, apple juice and apple sauce from school cafeterias and vending machines.
In Los Angeles County, 54 out of 82 districts as of Wednesday had stopped serving fresh apples and products made from them.
However, at least two local districts--San Marino and Antelope Valley Union--said they have decided to return apples to school menus today after consulting outside experts and vendors, who told them that daminozide levels are not harmful or were not found in the products they use.
In other districts, such as Culver City, Newhall Elementary and El Monte Union High School District, officials said they were still serving apple juice, because they were convinced that it did not contain daminozide in dangerous levels.
Most districts said they are refraining from serving fresh apples and apple products until they receive official word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Education that doing so would not pose a health risk to children. State Health Services Director Kenneth W. Kizer on Tuesday said districts were overreacting by not serving the fruit to students.
Jack Hastings, food and nutrition director for Dade County schools, which provides 163,000 lunches a day, said: “When New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles made the decision (to stop serving apples), we decided maybe we better do the same thing.”
He said Dade--which includes Miami’s schools--would continue the ban “until we get some answer from a regulatory agency one way or another” about the safety of apples treated with daminozide, which has been linked to cancer in laboratory studies using rats.
Back in Schools
However, officials in the San Marino Unified School District, after receiving verification from suppliers that their products do not contain the chemical, decided Wednesday that it was safe to start serving apples and apple products again, Food Service Director Susan Delgado said.
Likewise, students in the Newhall Elementary School District, who have not been offered any apples since Monday, will also start seeing the fruit again today, according to Food Services Director Terry Custer.
Custer said he consulted the USDA and the Toxic Information Center, a San Francisco-based group funded by the state Department of Health Services, and is now convinced that it is “better to eat the apples than not eat them. . . .”
“I’m satisfied now . . . that the whole thing has been blown slightly out of proportion,” he said.
In Newhall, Child Nutrition Director Geri Dee said the district’s five schools have continued to serve apple juice on demand to students who, for health or other reasons, do not drink milk.
Contributing to this article were researchers Tracy Thomas and Shawn Griggs.
Fifty-four out of 82 Los Angeles County school districts have quit serving apples or apple products to students because of concern over the chemical daminozide.
ABC Unified School District
Alhambra City and High School District
Arcadia Unified School District
Azusa Unified School District
Bellflower Unified School District
Beverly Hills Unified School District
Bonita Unified School District
Castaic Union School District
Centinela Valley Union High School District
Charter Oak Unified School District
Claremont Unified School District
Compton Unified School District
Covina-Valley Unified School District
Culver City Unified School District
Downey Unified School District
Duarte Unified School District
East Whittier City School District
El Monte Union High School District
El Rancho Unified School District
El Segundo Unified School District
Glendora Unified School District
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District
Hermosa Beach City School District
Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union School District
Inglewood Unified School District
Keppel Union School District
La Canada Unified School District
Las Virgenes Unified School District
Lawndale School District
Little Lake City School District
Lowell Joint School District
Lynwood Unified School District
Monrovia Unified School District
Mountain View School District
Newhall School District
Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District
Palmdale School District
Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District
Paramount Unified School District
Pomona Unified School District
Redondo Beach City School District
Rowland Unified School District
Saugus Union School District
Soledad-Agua Dulce Union School District
South Bay Union High School District
South Pasadena Unified School District
South Whittier School District
Sulphur Springs Union School District
Temple City Unified School District
Torrance Unified School District
West Covina Unified School District
Whittier City School District
William S. Hart Union High School District
Wilsona School District