Most San Diego County school districts have restored apples and apple products to their cafeterias--after they received written assurance from state officials that the fruit tested safe for consumption--but two districts said Monday that they will continue the ban as a precaution.
The assurances came after weeks of controversy stirred by a report by the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council saying that the chemical Alar can cause cancer in children younger than the age of 6 because of their low tolerance.
After weeks of apple-banning, the California State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition and Food Distribution Division issued a statement March 17 that read in part, ". . . it is safe to eat apples and apple products. Therefore the Department is recommending that all districts and child care agencies which have placed a hold on the use of apples and apple products resume serving these items.”
Some Continue Ban
At least two districts, the Jamul-Dulzura Union district, and Encinitas Union Elementary, said they will continue to observe the ban.
Tom Bishop, superintendent for Jamul-Dulzura Union, said: “We pulled them a couple of weeks ago in response to the possibility that there might be some pesticides on them. We have not put them back. We are studying different reports to try to make an informed choice.”
“We put in an informal request to the county health department to see what that will kick up for us. We wanted to make an intelligent decision. . . . Better safe than sorry,” Bishop said.
Bob Burnett, the director of food services for Encinitas Union Elementary, said that, in spite of receiving the letter, he won’t put red apples on the menu anytime soon. For now, he is content to serve just the green variety. “I’m just waiting for a while,” he said. “They’ll be put back on, by all means, but I just wanted to wait for a while.”
The Valley Center Union district has also discontinued meals with apples, but only because their food vendor withdrew all apples and apple products from his shipments, said Supt. Harry Weinberg. “I would assume that he would go along with the directive, but we haven’t heard anything yet,” he said.
For the most part, San Diego county cafeteria personnel said that, after the assurances, they now have no fears about serving apples to schoolchildren.