New signs posted in all Burbank schools warn of potentially hazardous
effects from food and drinks served on campus, but district officials
say the signs are more about complying with state law than about any
real health concerns at local schools.
The signs, which went up for the first time this year in all
Burbank Unified schools, warn that “chemicals known to the state of
California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive
harm, may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here.”
According to state law, the signs must be placed in areas where
food is served because certain fish with high levels of methylmercury
have been added to a list of about 750 chemicals considered dangerous
to humans, said Dave O’Riordan, Southern California district manager
for Sodexho, the company hired by Burbank Unified to plan district
menus and purchase food. The signage relates to Proposition 65, the
Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.
Appearing before the BUSD board of education at its Thursday
meeting, O’Riordan told board members that certain types of fish --
king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish -- are known to have
high levels of methylmercury.
“The most important part of this is that the fish that we serve
are not on the list,” he told board members.
Nevertheless, he said, state law requires the warning sign be
visible in all school lunchrooms.
Although O’Riordan expressed concern that children might go home
and tell their parents they are being poisoned, Maureen Conklin, the
district’s food services director, said she is attempting to dispel
“At this point, I have reached out to the district PTA, and I’m
waiting to meet with them so that they know what this about,” Conklin
Fish sandwiches are served about once a month at the middle
schools and high schools, but O’Riordan said that as of Wednesday,
fish is off the menu at elementary schools.
Following the meeting, board member Ted Bunch said that while it
might be difficult for young children to look up and see the warning
sign, “it’s the law.”
Posting the sign is protection from being sued, Bunch said.
“It’s kind of going back to the lawsuit against McDonald’s over
the hot coffee,” he said. “Now, McDonald’s cups warn, ‘This is hot
and it could burn you.’ ”