Apples’ Comeback on School Menus Gets Mixed Review

Times Education Writer

The much-maligned apple--banned from school menus last week because of fears of chemical contamination--started to reappear in some Los Angeles Unified School District cafeterias Monday, an occasion students greeted with approval, indifference and downright dismay.

Schools were notified that they could resume serving the fruit and some related products this week after Supt. Leonard Britton, announcing the results of laboratory tests, gave the district’s apple supply a clean bill of health.

A host of federal and state agencies last Thursday also declared apples safe to eat, after scores of school districts, from Los Angeles to New York, had hastily banished the fruit because of fears that they were tainted with Alar, a chemical used on some apple crops that has been linked to cancer in some laboratory animal studies.

Many Los Angeles district schools were offering other fruits Monday because they had not had a chance to order apples.

Laboratory tests ordered by the Los Angeles district last week showed its supplies of fresh apples, apple juice from dairy vendors, apple-raisin bread and frozen apple-cherry bars to be free of Alar, officials said. The district is still waiting for test results on apple sauce, apple juice from district warehouses and canned apple slices and will withhold those items from lunch lines until they are proved to be safe, a district spokeswoman said.


About 35 of the district’s more than 600 schools placed apple orders with the district warehouse Monday, which a district official said was about half the number that typically request the fruit each day.

But at Robert Louis Stevenson Junior High School in East Los Angeles, cafeteria workers served apples--about 1,000 of them. Ray Brown, cafeteria manager, said he had held them in storage since March 9, when the ban was imposed, and was glad to be able to serve them again.

“Apples are their (students’) first preference,” he said.

At one crowded cafeteria table at Stevenson, Azucena Chavez, 15, and her friend Laura Gaspar, also 15, both had picked up apples to top off their lunches, which on this day featured fried chicken nuggets, french fries and corn.

“It’s my favorite fruit,” Azucena said. “I ate them last week too,” even though no one in her family would touch the fruit because of fears aroused by the ban, she added.

But a few tables away, Rosa Gomez, 16, and her friend, Claudia Gomez, 15 (no relation), rejected the shiny red fruit. Claudia said she wasn’t big on apples and chose a tangerine instead. Rosa said she won’t eat apples or any fruit that isn’t organically grown.