(Copyright 1997. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

September 8, 1997

Inspections reveal school cafeteria woes

Tattoo Staff Writer

Students may get grossed out by school
cafeterias, but health inspectors say they're

In their rare inspections of local high school
cafeterias, Bristol-Burlington Health District
experts haven't found much of anything that
worried them -- but some of their findings might
make students wonder.

A review by The Tattoo of health department
inspections conducted during the past five years
found numerous small problems, including some
that linger year after year without officials
correcting them.

Bristol Eastern High School has crumbling
ceiling tiles in its kitchen; Bristol Central
High School has had peeling paint for a quarter
century; and St. Paul Catholic High School has
managed to avoid a formal inspection for 2 1/2

And then there's the stuff students expect.

In 1993, for instance, an inspector warned
Central to "clean dead roaches from behind and
under equipment."

Head sanitarian Phyllis Amodio said the three
high school cafeterias in town are clean, safe
and healthy -- and steadily improving.

"They would not be open if we didn't feel they
were safe to eat in," Amodio said.

Yet the last time Eastern and Central were
inspected -- in April -- their violations were
severe enough that the health department could
have shut both cafeterias down.

At Eastern, the school used potentially toxic
lubricants on machinery, specifically WD-40,
instead of food-grade oil. That earned the
cafeteria a 4-point demerit that is, on its own,
bad enough to let the department close the

At the same time, Eastern also failed to keep
hot foods hot enough and cold foods cold enough.
That also got the cafeteria a 4-point

All told, Eastern got 81 of a possible 100

Amodio said, "If they have below an 80 or a 4-
point violation, we have the authority to close
them down. We try to correct the 4 point
violations on site."

Central weighed in with a score of 72.

It managed to serve up potentially hazardous
food as well because it neglected to chill the
topping on its pudding.

Central was told to install backflow devices on
its steamer and a sink, to toss out
"rusted/dented cans," failed to adequately
protect self-serve foods, prevent machine oil
from coming out of the mixers and the back door
was open to vermin.

Greg Boulanger, director of food services for
the city school district,  could
not be reached for comment for this story.

This year's crackdown by the health department
appears to have been a fluke. The schools
normally rate in the 90s.

"No one gets 100," said Health Director Patricia
Checko. "I'd be surprised and upset by 100's
coming through here."

Amodio said she was especially hard on both
Central and Eastern this year because she wanted
to ensure that the $40 million renovation
project beginning next year would include
measures to fix even relatively minor problems.

For instance, she said the cafeterias have two
basin sinks now but they ought to have three
basin ones to wash, rinse and sanitize dishes
more efficiently.

One problem at Central has lingered since at
least 1972.

An inspector that year warned about "paint
flaking on walls in walk-in cooler."

The problem was noted time after time in the
years since. And this year, once again an
inspector told Central to "repair peeling paint
[on] walk-in walls."

St. Paul's cafeteria doesn't get the scrutiny
the public high schools receive.

Its last inspection, in Feb. 1995, earned it a
98 rating after a warning to sanitize equipment
better. Before that, it escaped inspection for
about four years.

Amodio said she has walked through the cafeteria
a few times since its last formal check when she
happens to be at the school.

"Obviously, we need to get in there and do a
thorough inspection," she said.

State law says that the cafeterias should be
inspected at least every 120 days, or three
times a year. "In a perfect world that would
happen," Amodio said.

Amodio said that all the schools need more

"All this should have been done a lot more,
since this has been brought to our attention I
can tell you it will be done more often," said

Amodio said the health department tries to
educate people rather than cracking down on
violators. "We work with people," she said.

Generally, she said, the cafeterias are doing a
better job maintaining standards these days.

"Since I started working here they've made a
tremendous turnaround in a positive way," Amodio

She's even got kind words for the food the
cafeterias serve. It's gotten better, Amodio
said, and "there's something for everyone."

"I can't understand why they don't like the food
to begin with," Amodio said. "I would eat in