Report: Iowa school cafeterias aren't inspected enough - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Report: Iowa school cafeterias aren't inspected enough

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- There are more than 26,000 facilities nationwide that haven't had federally mandated cafeteria inspections, and Iowa doesn't stack up well. Our state ranks as tenth worst according to USDA data.

Out of more than 1,500 schools reporting, around half haven't had the required twice yearly inspections. The regulation went into effect in 2005.

KWWL checked the Dubuque Community schools in the city limits, and they do pretty well. The most common offenses were not posting handwashing signs or the inspection reports.

One school, Fulton Elementary has a perfect record of getting inspected, and its most recent report was perfect -- the only public elementary school in the city to do so.

Tina Busch and Jeanne Stierman say safe food is their priority as food service workers at Fulton. They're diligent about checking everything.

"I take the temperatures everyday and we have to log them on the totes and send them back to the central kitchen," Stierman said.

Fulton, like some other Dubuque schools, doesn't cook food on site, so the city health department only comes once a year.

"Schools have to fulfill the Iowa food code which is the same rules and regulations that apply to any restaurant or grocery store or delicatessen or whatever," City of Dubuque Public Health Specialist Mary Rose Corrigan said.

Dubuque health officials say they keep up, but it's easy to see why some schools don't get inspected, especially in rural areas.

"It's a variety of reasons, between access, staff and availability of staff, and funding to keep the staff trained and ready to go," Corrigan said.

Part of the problem, she says, is that the required inspections are an unfunded regulation; schools don't pay license fees.

"The fees from the licensing fees from the restaurants and grocery stores, the taverns, etc. Those fees pay the inspection program," Corrigan said.

So even in Dubuque, the health department is out roughly one quarter to one third of the cost of each cafeteria inspection.

For Fulton, the inspection's just another affirmation, it's lunch done right.

"You're not worried about the inspector coming in. He can come in anytime!" Busch said.

Many Dubuque cafeterias are only inspected once a year because food isn't actually cooked there, but is actually made in the central kitchen.

According to the USDA, those schools with central kitchens are included in their data of schools which haven't been inspected twice yearly. City health officials say the state has indicated schools using central kitchens don't have to be inspected twice, just once, per year.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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